Papua New Guinea has a major role in ensuring peace and prosperity in the Pacific, the country’s Prime Minister James Marape has said in a major speech at The Australian National University (ANU).

The ANU address followed the Prime Minister’s historic speech to the Australian Parliament, the first by a Papua New Guinea leader, and was his only other public speech.

Speaking to a packed theatre in the University’s Kambri cultural precinct, Prime Minister Marape outlined the long-standing and deep ties between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Mr Marape highlighted poverty as one of his country’s biggest challenges, thanking Australia’s government and businesses for their continued investment in and economic support to the Melanesian nation.

“Papua New Guinea must not continue to be an aid grant-receiving nation; a nation that depends on borrowing every year to survive. We must become a strong country standing on our two feet,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to not letting down the aspirations of those who came before us.”

During his address, the Prime Minister highlighted the growth of Papua New Guinea’s economy and the provision of advanced medical services and treatments to not only people in PNG but other Pacific nations as major examples of the nation’s significant development over the last decade.

Mr Marape called on Australia to continue working with Papua New Guinea to build a highly-skilled, educated and mobile workforce for the benefit of both nations.

“A strong economically and powered Papua New Guinea means a stronger and more secure Australia in the Pacific,” Mr Marape said.

“Contribute where you can and leave the rest to us, we will do our best.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted major green energy investment opportunities offered by Papua New Guinea, especially for Australian businesses.

During his address to academics, politicians, policymakers, practitioners, the media and the wider public, Mr Marape also thanked ANU for its research, teaching and work on Papua New Guinea since the University’s foundation in 1946.

He paid special tribute to ANU research and independent monitoring of the country’s elections over many years, as well as the University’s analysis of development and aid to his home country.

“I want to acknowledge the scholars here at ANU. Thank you very much.

“The Australian National University has a proud and long history and that history is closely associated with Papua New Guinea. We know very much the role ANU has played and continues to provide.”

Mr Marape was quick to point out Papua New Guinea’s long-standing commitment to democracy.

“You cannot ignore the fact that we are straddled right in the heart of the most exciting part of planet Earth,” he said.

“We [Australia and Papua New Guinea] are stuck at the hips. So, we are stuck with you here forever, we are not going anywhere else.

“And our democracy will be preserved; our union and our relationship is not something we take lightly and for granted. We know our place in the world. And we know our place in the Pacific.

“And amid many relationships we will never compromise our democracy, our subscription to a free economy and the rule of common law for all.”

Prime Minister Marape joins ANU Chancellor Julie Bishop for a fireside chat. Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

After his address, the Prime Minister was joined by ANU Chancellor and former Australian foreign minister the Hon Julie Bishop for a “fireside” chat on the Australia-Papua New Guinea relations and the mutual challenges both countries face – including the sustained economic rise of China.

“We are friends to all and enemies to none,” Mr Marape said. “We export big into China and the Asian market. The next 100 years is the Asian century, as the last 100 years were the Western century.

“And so we can’t ignore the fact that the market is opening big not just in China but in India, Southeast Asia and West Asia. These markets must be tapped for PNG as a nation needing economic sustenance.

“As far as our humble role is concerned; we pray for peace, we work for peace, and tolerance and diversity.”

Watch the Prime Minister’s full address at ANU TV

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