Today I attended the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) with Defence Ministers from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, as well as senior representatives from Franceand Chile.
I extend my congratulations and thanks to Minister Pok, the Defence Minister for Papua New Guinea, on hosting a successful meeting.
During discussions, I affirmed Australia’s support for this dialogue as an important avenue to deepen security partnerships in the region. It was agreed that the forum will continue to meet biennially and the governance framework was formally endorsed by members. The next meeting will be hosted by New Zealand in 2017.
A range of new initiatives were agreed to help drive enhanced regional cooperation. Members formally endorsed the collaborative multilateral exercise framework known as POVAI ENDEAVOUR. Under this exercise framework, regional partners will be able to better align cooperative efforts in maritime security, stabilisation operations and peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Australia proposed two new initiatives which were welcomed by members at the meeting. The ‘Women in Pacific Defence Forces’ and the ‘Future Leaders Summit on Security in the Pacific’ initiatives both focus on the professional development of military personnel and officials working on security and defence issues in the South Pacific region. Both were endorsed for further development and will be discussed and implemented prior to the next SPDMM.
Members warmly welcomed Australia’s continued commitment to implement the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) and the rapid progress of the SEA 3036 Phase 1 – Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement project, with the Request for Tender released on 5 March 2015.
Papua New Guinea also confirmed that it would participate in the initiative - the twelfth Pacific nation to join the PMSP.
As part of Australia’s continued commitment to maritime security in the Pacific region, the PMSP will strengthen and broaden the region’s capacity to secure maritime resources, and will enable greater cooperation between regional states in achieving this goal.
This project also represents a significant investment in Australia’s defence industry, with the Australian-made patrol boats work $594 million in addition to through life sustainment and personnel costs estimated at $1.38 billion over 30 years.
During my visit I also met with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, during which I reaffirmed that Australia remains committed to a regional partnership approach in maintaining a stable and secure South Pacific, which will ensure the region’s continued stability and prosperity.
Chloe Petch (Minister Andrews’ Office) 0477 395 356
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999