PNG: Securing a Prosperous Future Conference
Deakin University Geelong Waterfront Campus
Friday 13 April 2012
Papua New Guinea:
Securing a Prosperous Future
Domestic and Regional Security
[check against delivery]
Thank you Hurriyet for that kind introduction.
I would like to acknowledge:
Ms Jane den Hollander, Vice-Chancellor, Deakin Uni
Dame Carol Kidu MP, Leader of the Opposition, PNG Parliament
The Hon. Bart Philemon, PNG Minister for Public Service
His Excellency Charles Lepani, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia
Ms Margaret Adamson, Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to PNG
Professor Hurriyet Babacan, Director of the Cairns Institute, James Cook University
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today on the issue of regional and domestic security in the context of securing a prosperous Papua New Guinea. I would like to thank Deakin University and my friend and colleague the Hon Richard Marles for organising this conference, and for inviting me to speak to you today. I would particularly like to recognise Richard’s efforts to raise the profile of PNG in the Australian consciousness.
Last year on the 23rd July, I was fortunate enough to represent Australia at the 30th Papua New Guinea Remembrance Day Ceremony at Remembrance Park, at Elba Beach in Port Moresby. Papua New Guinea’s remembrance day ceremony is held on the day that combined Australian and Papua New Guinean forces came into contact for the first time with the Japanese at Gona. During the ceremony, I was privileged to lay a wreath at the foot of the memorial which depicts an Australian solider, Private George “Dick” Whittington being supported, and lead to safety by a Papuan Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Raphael Oimbari. This image of selfless courage and kindness is beloved by Australian and Papua New Guineans alike, and embodies the closeness and strength of our relationship. The battles for Kokoda, Gona and Sandananda – to name but a few – joined us together as brothers in arms and true friends in the hard won peace that followed.
Our security relationship has always been one of mutual development, protection and friendship. In 1940, the first Papuan Infantry Battalion was raised under the auspices of the Australian Army and staffed by 16 Australians and 285 Papua New Guineans. Initially, the Battalion conducted what we consider today to be “nation building tasks”. They established roads, repaired wharfs, quarried and guarded military installations. However, their role soon changed to operational tasks, such as surveillance and patrolling – a PIB Patrol observed the landing of the Japanese South Sea Force at Gona on the night of 21/22 July, with first contact occurring on 23 July – now Remembrance day in Papua New Guinea.
The 1st and 2nd New Guinea Infantry Battalions were formed in 1944 and the 3rd New Guinea Infantry Battalion in 1945. In November 1944 the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions became the Pacific Islands Regiment, which still exists today. The men of these Battalions took part in operations alongside Australian forces at Kokoda, Finschhafen, Sepik River and other campaigns, and their members won six Military Crosses, three Distinguished Conduct Medals and 20 Military Medals.
Although the Pacific Islands Regiment was disbanded at the end of World War II, it was reformed in 1951, and expanded in size during the period of Confrontation with Indonesia. From 1963 Papua New Guineans began taking over roles as officers and NCOs in the Regiment, and control was gradually shifted from Australia to PNG. Finally in 1973 the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) was founded, ready to assume its new constitutional functions on independence in 1975.
Today the PNGDF has over two thousand personnel in its Land, Maritime and Air Elements, located principally in Port Moresby, but with a training depot at Goldie River, and additional barracks at Wewak and Lae, and forward operating bases at Vanimo and Kiunga. The initial estimated budget allocation for 2012 is 188 million PNG Kina.
The PNGDF has a clearly defined role, as set out in the Constitution of Papua New Guinea. The tasks assigned by the Constitution reflect the historical development of the PNGDF and the nation itself.
First and foremost, the PNGDF must defend Papua New Guinea and its territory. Additionally, the PNGDF must support the civil authorities in protecting the country’s internal security. It must provide assistance to the civil authorities in responding to disasters; and, when required, it must assist the Police in the restoration of public order and security upon being called out by an Act of Parliament during a declared national emergency.
The PNGDF is also constitutionally mandated to perform civil construction tasks, as directed, to promote national development and improvement. Finally, the PNGDF is required to assist PNG to fulfil its international obligations – to be part of the nation’s contribution to regional and global security through peacekeeping operations.
The strategic foresight and sound guiding principles embodied in the Constitution ensure that these tasks are as relevant today as they were when the Constitution was established in 1975. However, domestic and regional security is subject to dynamic influences which demand adaptive responses from those elements charged with responsibility for national and regional security.
In October 2010, to adapt to the changing security environment and to build the foundations for prosperity, the Government of PNG issued a strategic development vision for PNG known as the Medium Term Development Plan or MTDP. Aimed at translating the PNG Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030 into tangible results, the document as many of you know is comprehensive, covering all the key social, political economic and security elements of national life.
With respect to defence and security, the MTDP recounted the constitutional roles of the PNGDF and then went on to state that
The military assets and facilities of the PNGDF are run down and barely operational. The small force of two thousand personnel is ageing and suffers from inadequate specialty training as a result of budget constraints since the 1990s. These constraints have severely restricted the PNGDF from fully delivering on its key roles and functions. With appropriate funding for an increase in military equipment, personnel and training, the PNGDF will move towards achieving its goal in accordance with its constitutional obligations, and meet the Vision 2050 fourth pillar on security and international relations. Importantly, the activities and tasks of the PNGDF will deliver benefits to PNG’s development.
I want to focus on two aspects of this statement. First – what are current domestic and regional security challenges that fall within the PNGDF’s constitutional roles and functions? And secondly, how does the PNGDF – facing a range of challenges as mentioned in the MTDP – deliver on its constitutional mandate provide security to the nation and thereby support the development of the nation?
PNG’s security challenges are well known. It has significant natural resources, but they are found in isolated and rugged terrain, making access, extraction and protection of infrastructure difficult. PNG’s rapidly growing population brings with it benefits, yet it will be a huge challenge for the national government to take the forecast future income from major resource projects and spread the benefits across PNG’s major population centres, and also to the majority of the population who still live a rural subsistence existence.
Internal law and order issues in PNG concern citizens, business, law enforcers and lawmakers alike, and act as an inhibitor on development. The proliferation of weapons throughout the country, particularly in the Highlands, is a considerable security concern. The potential for disputes to escalate into fatal confrontation between groups, or for matters to be resolved through intimidation and the threat of force undermines the quality of the life for Papua New Guineans and the confidence of business.
These factors are exacerbated by the growth of settlements around urban areas such as Port Moresby and Lae. While the rapidly growing population has the potential to drive domestic consumption, and to create flexible labour markets, the current challenges of high unemployment, rising criminality and the growing demand on essential services has the potential to compromise security and in turn restrict or halt development. The unrest in Lae in November 2011 is an example of the volatile situations that can arise, as settler communities mix and compete with local communities for services, land and employment opportunities.
These factors pose an immense challenge to the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC). The size of the RPNGC has only increased marginally since 1975, during which time PNG’s population has doubled. The MTDP is unfortunately largely silent on how to achieve an increase in the size of the RPNGC. While there are complex matters at play here – including financial considerations and the capacity of the existing training academy to house trainees – this is a critical area which requires prioritisation. As we made clear at the Ministerial Forum last October, Australia is prepared to assist PNG in increasing the capacity of the RPNGC. The MTDPs short term focus is on training existing officers, removing the backlog of cases before courts, utilising alternative dispute resolutions and rehabilitative options and improving infrastructure.
To those ends three major joint PNG-Australian programs are helping to enhance the capacity of PNG law and justice agencies to deliver services, focusing on PNG’s law and justice sector goals. These are the Law and Justice Partnership, funded to $150 million dollars, the Policing Partnership delivered by the Australian Federal Police to the value of $7 million dollars, and the Strongim Gavman Program, which includes approximately $5 million for law and justice in 2011–12, delivered by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department.
Under each of these programs, advisers work inline providing technical assistance and training to their PNG counterparts. They work to improve the delivery of policing and law and justice services by strengthening core functions such as advocacy, investigation, professional standards, and forensics.
The challenges PNG must face in the regional security environment, are similar to those faced by other nations in the region. PNG’s large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a source of current and future revenue and food from fish stocks, potential seabed mining, oil and gas exploration.
At 3.1 million square kilometres, the EEZ is almost seven times the size of PNG’s land mass and includes seven maritime borders. PNG’s EEZ is part of the world biggest tuna fishery – the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Fishery. The Pacific Islands Region contains the richest and last remaining healthy tuna stocks in the world. This resource is targeted by foreign fishing fleets and is exposed to the environmental and economic impacts of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. PNG estimates that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its EEZ costs PNG approximately 3 million kina per day, or 1 billion Kina per year.
Vessels involved in such fishing not only violate PNG’s sovereignty and steal its resources, they also engage in a range of other transnational criminal activities which undermine regional security. In 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) conducted a study into the incidence of transnational organised crime and other criminal activity in the fishing industry.
The study found that fishing vessels are used for the purposes of human trafficking and forced labour, the smuggling of migrants, illicit traffic in drugs and weapons, acts of terrorism, and the plundering of other valuable marine resources. UNODC also found that the fishing licensing and control system was vulnerable to corruption by officials, thereby depriving nations of an important source of revenue and leading to degradation of fish stocks.
As the MTDP acknowledges maritime surveillance is crucial, to protect PNG’s sovereignty, and to interdict illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
PNG’s geography, with its long land and maritime borders, also exposes the nation to illegal people movements and transnational crime. Its land border with Indonesia is porous, and people and goods move across the border unmonitored.
As we have seen in recent years, and as we were reminded only yesterday, domestic and regional security is not only vulnerable to human actors, but also to the power of nature. Our region must deal frequently with the challenge of natural disasters. PNG is subject to the full effects of tropical cyclones, inland and coastal flooding, landslides and mudslides, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and drought. Natural disasters dislocate the population, disrupt development, damage infrastructure and seriously set back the development of communities and businesses. In an era of climate change, we can only expect the incidence of climate-related natural disasters to increase.
Our response to the threat of natural disasters must be proactive and it must be regional. Regionally we need to work together on measures to reduce the effects of climate change – measures to restrict carbon emissions and to foster the development of sustainable forestry, farming and tourism practices. It also means we need to be prepared to respond at a regional level to the effects of natural disasters. Our civil and military responses must be co-ordinated, timely and effective.
All nation states of the Pacific have an important role to play in ensuring that our region continues to prosper in an environment of peace. This means we have a responsibility to uphold democratic values in our region and enhance the dignity of each fellow human being. And it means we work transparently, alone or together as appropriate, towards sustainable and equitable outcomes for our people, our environment, our nation and our region.
Many of the challenges PNG faces are present throughout our region. Adopting a regional approach is often the most appropriate way to address these shared security challenges. These regional approaches are most effective when governments across the region commit to addressing common issues in a coordinated way.
For example, monitoring, control and surveillance activities conducted multilaterally through the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, and bilaterally through Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program, are vital regional efforts to protect maritime resources, enforce sovereignty and counter transnational crime.
In turn, these regional solutions support the sovereign actions of national governments that take steps to address these challenges themselves. The key is to ensure a balance between regional approaches and national responsibility.
So how does the PNGDF meet these security challenges and fulfil its constitutional obligations to the people of PNG?
Successive governments have recognised that the PNGDF is crucial to both the security and development of PNG. In practical terms this mandate means that the PNGDF is required to conduct regular surveillance patrols in PNG’s EEZ and along its land border with Indonesia, to deter illegal fishing, illegal people movements and transnational crime.
The PNGDF is also responsible for a range of nation building tasks – working on engineering projects, delivering medical services in remote areas, conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities, and providing security and logistics support to significant events such as elections and the census.
And it must act as a stabilising domestic actor by supporting the rule of law, with the capacity to control internal instability during times of call out and states of emergency. At a regional level, the PNGDF is relied upon to contribute to regional security and support regional contingencies.
Now, these are complex tasks, which require diverse skills and equally complex platforms to enable their completion. Achieving these tasks would be a challenge for any military, yet for a military not yet 40 years old the PNGDF, despite a number of challenges, and a rapidly changing security environment, is working steadily towards achieving its constitutional tasks .
Importantly, the PNGDF continues its role in nation-building. The PNGDF Engineer Battalion, based at Lae, is currently constructing a section of the Highlands Highway from Baiyer River in Western Highlands Province, to Usino in Madang Province. The Highlands Highway connects major coastal cities with regional Highlands centres, fostering development by allowing more effective movement of people and goods across PNG, including to access health services.
Providing domestic humanitarian and disaster relief in the wake of natural disasters is a core capability of the PNGDF – rightly relied upon by the people and government of PNG. Most recently during the landslide near Tari in the Southern Highlands in late January, the PNGDF worked with the police to establish security at the site, which extended for one kilometre and was several hundred metres wide. During their deployment, the PNGDF Engineer Battalion established a strong rapport with the local community and fixed a number of roads in the Tari region.
And finally, in performing its domestic responsibility to control internal stability and support the rule of law, the PNGDF is maturing into an effective institution of state with the strength and courage to serve in the best interests of the people of PNG.
During the 2006 Southern Highlands State of Emergency and the 2007 National Election, the PNGDF performed well. During the recent political uncertainty, the PNGDF – and in particular its senior leadership group – refrained from becoming involved in what it rightly saw as a political dispute, despite the significant pressures placed on them. This demonstration of considerable maturity and restraint has set an example for the rest of the public service and indeed the region.
In terms of regional security, the PNGDF has been a much-valued contributor to RAMSI since 2003, and has recently contributed its first deployment of peacekeepers to UN peacekeeping missions in Darfur (UNAMID) and South Sudan (UNMISS), its first ever contributions to UN peacekeeping operations. The PNGDF Pacific Patrol Boats are among the busiest and most effective in the Pacific, and PNGDF students are performing well at the Royal Military College Duntroon, the Australian Command and Staff College, and the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. This demonstrates the PNGDF’s increasing international prestige and ability to contribute to regional security.
From an Australian perspective, it is clear that a secure and prosperous PNG is essential for the security and growth of our region.
Firstly, as Australians, we want to see our friends and partners in PNG realise their full economic, political and civil potential. It is clearly in Australia’s interest that PNG should be secure and prosperous.
Secondly, geography demands that as responsible partners Australia and PNG must work together to ensure the security of both nations for the benefit of our region. In turn, we also share responsibility for the security, stability and cohesion of our immediate neighbourhood. From a strategic military perspective it is important that the sovereignty of PNG is not undermined, or that PNG become a conduit for threats against Australia or other regional nations.
Today, through the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) and bilateral exercises, we work in a cooperative way to address the challenges faced by the PNGDF, to increase interoperability between the ADF and the PNGDF, and to learn from each other. Our relationship and our institutions are strengthened and in turn security is strengthened and our capacity to respond to security threats is improved. Australia’s DCP with PNG is our largest and it is set to grow as our operation increases.
The current DCP is delivered by 24 Defence personnel in PNG and funded to approximately $10 million annually. The DCP focuses on three core qualities – sustainability, professionalism and effectiveness. It delivers a range of capabilities. These include training, infrastructure refurbishment – most recently barracks refurbishment to improve the living conditions of soldiers – and support to the Pacific Patrol Boat Program. We train and work together in PNG and Australia. Our approach is comprehensive, it is not based on equipment, platforms, or short-term visits. Instead, our engagement is long-term, deep and sustained, because we are committed to the growth and security of PNG and our region.
The annual bilateral exercise program is a key component of our longstanding Defence relationship, and a key enabler for achieving security. By strengthening operational capabilities and improving interoperability, the PNGDF capability to contribute to domestic and regional security is significantly enhanced. In particular we participate in Exercise Wantok Warrior, an annual joint infantry exercise which involves an ADF company travelling to PNG to participate in a range of operational scenarios with the PNGDF and a reciprocal visit of a PNGDF unit to Australia. This exercise tests the ability of both forces to respond to a range of contingencies such as humanitarian and disaster relief operation and stabilisation operations, and it improves interoperability.
Our engagement through Exercise Puk Puk (pronounced Pook Pook) involves ADF and PNGDF Engineer teams working together on infrastructure enhancements for the PNGDF. The works completed during the most recent exercise in October 2011 included converting and renovating an old Signals Squadron building into the new Joint Operations Centre for the PNGDF. Other projects included the construction of permanent accommodation to support the barracks guard house, and a progressive renovation of the Murray Barracks Sergeants’ Mess.
We also support the PNGDF’s efforts to improve border security by assisting with the operation of bases at Vanimo (in Sandaun Province) and Kiunga (in Western Province).
Our maritime engagement through the Pacific Patrol Boat Program has been underway in PNG for 25 years. Our aim has been to work with PNG to protect maritime resources, enforce sovereignty and counter transnational crime. This task will become even more complex in the coming years.
Our Defence relationship is not all one-way traffic. For example the PNGDF Engineer Battalion participates in the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program (AACAP), which provides assistance in the delivery of housing and infrastructure capital works to a number of Indigenous communities in Australia. One project per year is undertaken targeting improvements in housing, essential services such as water, power and sewerage, and other community infrastructure, health and municipal services. The PNGDF contributes 15 engineering personnel to the project, which improves primary and environmental health and living conditions in remote Indigenous communities.
As partners we are frank about the challenges we both face in adapting, sustaining and growing our Defence Forces. The PNGDF continues to face challenges, including in infrastructure, transport, communications and health. The PNG Government has signalled its intent to grow the PNGDF in size, capability, and platform terms as PNG’s population and economy grows. Such growth could assist the PNGDF to make an increased contribution to domestic and regional security and it must be carefully managed for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans.
We continue to work with the PNGDF to review our co-operation, and to ensure it is having the most effect, by continuing those DCP activities that have proved effective and by developing new ones that address emerging challenges. Australia and PNG are working together in diverse areas such as air transport, workforce planning, infrastructure development, strategic planning, training, peacekeeping, health and governance. In each of these areas, a true partnership exists, where PNG identify areas for improvement and we work together to best address them in a way consistent with PNG’s needs.
A pertinent example is Australia’s assistance to the PNGDF’s Air Transport Wing that the Australian government first announced on 7 February this year, as part of Australia’s package of assistance for the forthcoming PNG elections. Since the 1920s, PNG’s rugged terrain and limited road infrastructure have meant that aircraft have been essential to travelling across PNG, especially to its most remote locations. Australia’s assistance to the PNGDF Air Transport Wing recognises this fact.
In the short term, contracting two civilian helicopters under the Defence Cooperation Program supports the PNGDF with its immediate requirement to move personnel and equipment around PNG for the election period. However, for the longer term, we are committed to working with the PNGDF to address its transport and mobility issues. The two year helicopter contract, which includes all operating costs, maintenance and training for PNGDF personnel, is intended to form the basis for the PNGDF’s future aviation capability. This initial contract for $7 million is the beginning of closer engagement on this issue.
While PNG faces a number of security challenges as it seeks to create a prosperous and peaceful nation, I believe it has a considerable advantage in dealing with those challenges. And this advantage is clearly demonstrated by the citizens and experts assembled here today for this conference. This is the advantage of considering the views of others who have encountered and addressed many of these issues and drawing on that expertise to develop solutions which suit the unique culture and circumstances of PNG.
Moreover, as a young nation, PNG has the advantage of working from what is called in the policy world “first principles.” That is, PNG has the benefit of starting fresh, with clarity on where they want to go as a people and as a nation and on how this is best achieved. To ensure a peaceful and prosperous future the people and the Government of PNG need to focus on and draw from these strengths.
As I mentioned earlier, the security relationship between PNG and Australia was forged during World War II. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the critical campaigns in PNG – the Battle of Milne Bay, the Kokoda campaign, and the Battle for the Beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. We are reminded by these anniversaries not only of the example of courage and sacrifice that Papua New Guineans set at that time, but also of the strength of our friendship.
Since World War II our Defence relationship has developed and matured to the point that our two nations are natural partners and firm friends. For reasons of our shared history and deep understanding of each other, this relationship will endure. The security – indeed the future – of our two nations is deeply and inextricably intertwined. And we will continue to work together to ensure that future is prosperous and peaceful.