Today I travelled to Auckland to meet with my New Zealand counterpart, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, in the run up to our attendance at the inaugural South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Tonga.
Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Defence Minister, Dr Fabian Pok, accompanied me from Australia to New Zealand.
While in transit to New Zealand, Minister Pok and I conducted a bilateral meeting. This was our first meeting since Minister Pok’s appointment late last year.
During the meeting, we discussed our common interests in improving maritime security in the region, including combating transnational crime and countering piracy.
Minister Pok and I also affirmed our commitment to the finalisation of a bilateral Defence Cooperation Arrangement between Australia and PNG.
This will provide a set of mutually agreed principles to guide future developments in our Defence relationship.
PNG is the largest recipient of assistance under Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program.
Tomorrow, Ministers Coleman, Pok and I will depart New Zealand for the Kingdom of Tonga for bilateral meetings and to attend the inaugural South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Thursday 2 May.
The inaugural South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting will comprise the Defence Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Tonga.
In recognition of their significant links with the Pacific, Chile and France will participate in the Meeting.
The inaugural South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting will be an important opportunity to discuss the strategic challenges facing our region, and to examine opportunities for our respective Defence forces to further enhance cooperation and ensure the maintenance of security in the Pacific.
Mr Smith's office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Defence Media Operations: (02) 6127 1999