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The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

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(02) 6277 7840

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29 May 2024


LAURA JAYES: Thousands are feared dead after a major landslide buried entire communities in Papua New Guinea. Many homes, schools and critical infrastructure have been wiped away, leaving residents struggling to access basic necessities like food, shelter and sanitation. Joining me now is the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, here in the studio. Pat, good to see you. What's the latest information you have coming out of Papua New Guinea?

MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE PACIFIC, PAT CONROY: Well, it's very grim. What we've got is 160 buildings across a few villages wiped out under a landslide that's buried them six to eight metres deep. The site is still very unstable, with more landslides occurring. The major roads have been blocked, so helicopter transport is the main way of getting assistance there. The PNG emergency agencies have estimated between 700 and 2000 fatalities. So, it's a horrific situation in quite a remote part of the country.

LAURA JAYES: Yeah, it is a quite remote part of the country, and looking at these pictures, it's hard to see how anyone survived that landslide. It is dense and there is no sign of homes where they used to be. Australia has pledged aid, are we sending our experts there as well, our rescue teams to help out?

MINISTER CONROY: Absolutely. So, we've announced an initial package of $2.5 million of assistance. More will follow. Last night, a RAAF C-130 Hercules aircraft transported our Disaster Assistance Response Team that's made up of a team from the Queensland Fire and Rescue, DFAT liaison and people from the National Emergency Management Agency. They're experts in incident control and logistics. They're equipped with drones for mapping the site. I'm afraid to say we're mainly in the territory of retrieving bodies rather than saving people. I will be overjoyed if that proves to be untrue, but that's where we are. The New Zealand government is providing experts with around the geological area, around geohazards to stabilize the site because it's very unsafe there right now.

LAURA JAYES: Right. So, this has quickly become not a rescue mission but a recovery. Well, yeah, recovery mission in many ways. But if there are, if the death toll is as high as you say, will it even be a recovery mission? What is Australia's role in all of that?

MINISTER CONROY: Well, our role is to support the priorities of the PNG Government. Whatever they need, we will support them with. We've also got around 8000 people displaced, in those villages, so we've already transported 750 large family shelters up there, water, sanitation, food, and rations. We've got 77 pallets going on RAAF aircraft that we've transported from our emergency warehouse in Port Moresby up to Mount Hagen today as well. So, we are pouring huge resources into this to support what is a very grim situation.

LAURA JAYES: And you say an initial pledge of around $2 million. Do you anticipate that might double or go further?

MINISTER CONROY: I won't speculate in the final number, but that's initial response. More will follow, definitely. That's on top of the $630 million of aid we plan to provide this year. So, it's very significant. But Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour, one of our dearest friends. They stood by us in our recent bushfires and floods and obviously during the darkest times of World War II. We owe them a debt of gratitude and we intend to make our contribution right now.

LAURA JAYES: Ok, Pat, thank you. Thanks for giving us an update. 



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