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The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
02 6277 7800
13 October 2022
LAE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
THURSDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2022
Thank you Kipas Binga and thank you, David Wissink for hosting us here today. And let me congratulate both of you on bringing this incredible place to the fruition of this moment.
I'd also like to acknowledge my good friend and counterpart, your local Member of Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister, John Rosso, and it's really been my honour to spend a considerable amount of time with John over the last two days.
Health Minister Tom, Defence Minister Daki, Housing Minister Bomoreo, Community Development Minister Peter, and all the Morobe Members of Parliament who are joining us here today.
Can I acknowledge High Commissioner Jon Philp, and the Chief of Defence Force Goina.
And I would also particularly like to acknowledge all the health workers who have joined us here today; all the doctors and all the nurses, thank you for the service that you give to this community.
It is hard to express the joy and the significance, and the honour of standing here before you right now, in opening this remarkable facility. I was in Lae in March of 2012, more than 10 years ago, visiting ANGAU hospital, visiting that hospital. And what is before us now is almost unimaginable when I think about that moment.
What we see here today began its life in a joint Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Australia, in 2013. I remember being there with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, we talked about how important this facility would be in the future development of PNG.
The construction works here started in 2018, and now as we meet here this afternoon, we stand in the midst of this absolutely fantastic building. This is a half a billion kina commitment. It is the single biggest commitment that Australia has made in development assistance since independence.
But it is hard to imagine a more important and better spend of development assistance money then the creation of this.
It is going to deliver state of the art health provision here, and it will also give rise to a comprehensive commissioning and clinical upskilling program of health workers in this area.
What this will do is completely change the provision of health services to the entire Momase Region, a region encompassing 3 million people. And so it's right in this moment to congratulate and thank all of those in the Morobe Provincial Health Authority to start with, all their staff and management, their health workers, for their engagement in this project. The building obviously matters. But it is what the people inside the building are going to do, which actually involves the delivery of health services. And it is those people who are engaged in the upskilling of their skills and their capabilities, which helps the health of this region.
I want to really acknowledge all those who participated in the building of this. The Papua New Guinean construction workers – 90 per cent of the hours that were worked under the CBP contractors in building this hospital were worked by Papua New Guinean contractors and construction workers. This is first and foremost an achievement of PNG, and everyone should feel very proud in respect of that.
And in a sense, it was all put to the test just over a month ago when we had pretty significant earthquake in this region, and the building is all still here standing. So it's obviously been built to the highest standards and we really congratulate all of those (inaudible).
This building and this hospital informs part of a broader contribution in relation to the provision of health, along with the Asian Development Bank and the Government of PNG, Australia has been proud not only to contribute here, but to five community health posts, two health centers, and two urban clinics. And that, along with the impressive facilities which are now here – 12 bed ICU ward, four operating theatres – provides a comprehensive suite of health services for the Morobe region.
There is an enormous sense of optimism as I speak to my partners in the PNG Government, as we have over the last day or so, in listening to Health Minister Tom talk about where the country is going, about where the provision of health is going. There is an optimism about the fact that PNG is on the move, and I really want to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister and all those here for everything you have done to breathe that life of optimism into this nation.
Wealth, prosperity – it doesn't mean a lot without health.
Social justice, fairness – it can't be achieved without health.
Central to the pursuit of happiness is the provision of health. And it's why this building is so important.
It's why this day is so significant in the history of Lae, in the history of Papua New Guinea, but very much in the history of the relationship between Australia and PNG.
Thank you very much.