Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP
Assistant Minister for Defence
Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Assistant Minister for the Republic
Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275
The Hon John Rosso MP
Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
3 November 2023
SUBJECTS: Gifting of PAC 750 aircraft to the PNGDF, Papua New Guinea–Australia Bilateral Security Agreement.
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: It’s an honour to be here on behalf of the Australian government with the Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, for the handing over of these two new PAC 750 aircraft to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. This is a wonderful symbol of the growing strength of the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, that goes back to the time of World War Two. We're now starting to see increased cooperation between our two militaries aimed at securing prosperity and security within what is a dynamic region, our region, the Pacific. And I want to thank Nancy Wii and the team at the Air Transport Division here for welcoming us here today. It’s fantastic to see these upgraded facilities that will start towards the course of next year, and it will as the Deputy Prime Minister said, be the beginning of the growing of the capacity of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. It’s something that Australia is very very proud to partner with the people of PNG on. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Of course, we see lots of instances where Australia and PNG come together in this great way to gift off these kind of resources. Perhaps Deputy Prime Minister could you tell us about what the significance of this aircraft will be for the for the Air Transport Wing Unit?
JOHN ROSSO, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA: As my counterpart in Australia pointed out, the Assistant Minister of Defence pointed out, it's a start of a resurgence of the very important role, the critical role, I should say, that the Air Transport Wing plays. It's been neglected for nearly 15 years, from time immemorial and having that resurgence partnering with good bilateral relationships between Australia and Papua New Guinea and having the current Papua New Guinea government putting funding into getting our aircraft that we own up and running again, having this partnership that we stand here today with the two packs of 750s that Australia has graciously donated to Papua New Guinea. The platform's for the 750s for the training of young pilots, so that in preparation for future aircraft that we might acquire. Also, it's for insertion into stall airfields, like in short, remote airfields on our borders. In search and rescue, in surveillance for unregulated illegal fishing boats, also it will assist us in fishery surveillance, assist us in combating against drugs and surveillance, also on disaster aid. It comes in small sort of aircraft but it comes with a huge compliment or things that you can do: to help control our coastlines, help insert a section of soldiers, you can fit about seven to eight soldiers in it - that's infantry section, on to our borders for easy accessibility. You can have them instead of having them in a chopper. You can insert them very quickly, not waiting for civilian aircraft, you can use the Australian donated planes to fly straight into the location, unload a section of soldiers and help protect our borders and all the other things that are important for us. A great, great platform, great asset and the biggest thing is the training program will also help us with training our young pilots, training, ground crew capability, our technicians, all that and all the background of an Air Transport squadron that will build. It's the start of a journey to enhance and build our capabilities. And the future looks good, great future. The partnership the bilateral arrangements between Australia and ourselves is the pathway for a lot lot more. It's something like what we had with the partnership with the Guardian class patrol boats and also that platform will work in cohesion with this platform on the outlining the protection of sovereign waters that I pointed out.
JOURNALIST: Assistant Minister, we've just heard a lot about the training then and how useful these are for the PNG Defence Force. What kind of priority is it for the Australian Government to ensure that PNG is upskilled for interim operability between the two countries?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: Earlier in the year, we had Exercise Talisman Sabre. It's the largest training exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Forces and I was fortunate to visit Queensland and to see the Australian troops exercising with 13 international forces, including for the first time members of the Papua New Guinean Defence Force and that is a wonderful example of the interaction and the partnership that is going on between our defence forces, to build the capability of both of our defence forces into the future. And it's through those exercises through occasions such as this, that we can generate and improve the interoperability of our two defence forces, to ensure peace and stability in the most dynamic region in the world, the Pacific. I also mentioned in my speech, the fact that Boniface Aruma is now taking over as second in command in Townsville, one of the most important infantry divisions in the Australian Defence Force. And that is a great example of the improved relationship between our defence forces when it comes to military training with the growing respect that exists in the hierarchy of the Australian Defence Force for the well trained, well equipped, and very smart, great operating Papua New Guinean Defence Force. And this relationship that we're launching today with the handover of these two aircraft, will only ensure that that relationship goes from strength to strength.
JOURNALIST: We've mentioned of course, the bilateral relationship, the Bilateral Security Treaty, as I understand it, is basically in front of both governments at the moment. How are things from the Australian perspective and are you confident or hopeful it'll be finalised in the coming months?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: We certainly welcome the finalisation of the negotiations of the bilateral security treaty, and now both of our governments have to undertake the necessary parliamentary approval, the legal approval processes. And that's going through the Australian Parliament at the moment. It will go before the Treaties Committee of the Australian Parliament that will report to our parliament about the benefits of this relationship and how it will be important for Australia and we certainly welcome to formal signing at the beginning of that important Defence cooperation agreement.
JOURNALIST: Deputy Prime Minister the same question to you, how's the Bilateral Security Treaty looking in front of PNG’s-
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Going pretty well, going pretty well. Negotiations from both parties have been occurring, and now it's also sitting, being prepared for National Executive Council for them to deliberate on and have a look at, but we're quite happy. We’re just waiting with the formalities to be ironed out and the last bits of it and ensure that the treaty agreement is signed.
JOURNALIST: And you mentioned internal security as well. That's going to be one of the big focuses of the bilateral security treaty too. Could you run me through kind of what opportunities you see of trying to use say Australian police or defence as far as internal security and say some of the conflicts we've been seeing over last year?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Internal security remains one of our biggest issues for the country. And part of this negotiation, the Bilateral Treaty Agreement, is also focused on assisting us. The capabilities of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and also the Papua Police Force, to ensure that we build up their capabilities, having enough training, prosecution and investigation techniques and airlift capability for our police force, able to have airlift capability in terms of helicopter support, air crew support, insertion into rural areas, intelligence gathering for our police force, basically enhancing and growing our capabilities. Papua New Guinea needs a police force of 26,000 members to equate to the United Nation’s data, per population. Currently we have only 6,000 policemen and women, with a population of approximately 12 million people, that is not really sufficient. So Papua’s focus is on increasing the training for policemen and women and building up their capabilities and support. And part of the agreement is also for the Bomana upscale of the Bomana police college to ensure that we staff over 1,000 police recruits every year to achieve those targets that we have set for ourselves. But not just anyone ordinary recruit, but good, screened properly, trained recruits, to combat any internal issues that we have here and also normal policing for our people to ensure that we live in a safe society.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) And also, if you could just confirm the cost for these two aircraft.
ASSISTANT MINISTER: Two aircraft have been donated and we’ll get the cost for you straight away.
JOURNALIST: And how many aircraft so far, has the Australian government given?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: These two.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA: The two aircraft are the start of a long process where we received the first two from the Australian government and negotiations are underway for additional aircraft were necessary and when both governments agreed to.
JOURNALIST: Speaking on provisional security and integrate international security now that the (inaudible). What's the government's plans for the (inaudible)
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA: The Papua new Guinean Defence Force has a maritime element. And it's, we've had, we've been the benefit of the Guardian-class patrol boat program. We've received four of them. And training complementing is similar to what's being done at the ATS and we're both working in our bilateral relationship to ensure that we enhance the training and ensure capabilities of those boats, ensure they have better surveillance, better internal capability with both the aircraft and the Guardian class patrol boat, so that we are able to police our borders a lot more better. The borders are very porous. And now with these additional assets, we can now be starting to seal off a lot of the porous holes within our sovereign borders and on our land borders also. These aircraft, as you can see, can also be used in the capability of surveillance on fisheries, on illegal logging, on inserting, as I said previously, section or infantry soldiers or policemen straight into remote areas in a very short landing, landing field sort of space. Likewise, we're also building up the training and no capabilities working partnership with Australian partners.