PNG PM Marape urges Australia to not ‘give up’ on his country in historic parliament address

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea addresses Parliament House (Photo: Anthony Albanese/Facebook)

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape has urged Australia to not “give up” on his country during an historic address to the federal parliament.

On Thursday morning, Marape became the first Pacific leader to address the joint sitting of both houses, with MPs and Senators packing into the lower house to listen.

The prime minister dwelt heavily on the shared history between Australia and Papua New Guinea, paying tribute to prime minister Gough Whitlam who helped shepherd his country to independence almost 50 years ago.

“It was from this parliament that many decisions were made that have helped and shaped what Papua New Guinea was before 1975, and what Papua New Guinea is after 1975,” Marape said.

“This is why Papua New Guinea has a very special and very unique relationship with Australia. We are the only country Australia has birthed.”

He acknowledged that Papua New Guinea continues to grapple with profound social and economic difficulties in the wake of riots that gripped the capital Port Moresby just last month, but declared that his government was intent on overhauling the public sector, police force and judiciary in order to improve stability.

“It is true our people need greater empowerment in many aspects of their life. But not all is bad. Not all is bad,” he told the joint sitting.

“Nearly 50 years on, our democracy remains strong as ever …. we have not fallen to the barrel of the gun as many emerging nations.”

Australia has extended multiple loans and grants to Papua New Guinea worth billions of dollars to help support its budget bottom line and develop its infrastructure, and last year, the two nations struck a security pact which will see Canberra plough a further $200 million (US$130 million into developing PNG’s police force and judiciary.

Marape said PNG’s leaders had to deal with a vast and inaccessible landscape, widespread illiteracy and a large and hugely diverse population.

“As I visit you today, I ask you — do not give up on Papua New Guinea,” the prime minister said.

“We have always bounced back from our low moments and we will continue to grow, learning from every low moments and every high moments.”

Marape has repeatedly spoken about the critical need to expand PNG’s economic base and cut its dependency on development assistance, and he struck a similar theme this morning.

“Papua New Guinea must not continue to be an aid grant receiving nation, a nation that is borrowing every year to survive,” he told the joint sitting.

“We must become a strong country standing on our own two feet economically independent and strong so we too can help Australia maintain democracy, preserve peace and ensure stability in our part of planet Earth, in our Pacific.”

The prime minister also drew a laugh when describing Australia and PNG as siblings which were joined at the hip. “One is stuck with family forever… our two countries are stuck with each other. We have no choice but to get along,” he said.

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