PNG Prime Minister visits Australia

Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea visits Australia this week. He will meet with his counterpart, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. In a historic first, Marape will address the Parliament of Australia.

It is a tricky time for Marape to be away from Port Moresby. His government is still working to get past the devastating impacts of recent riots in the nation’s capital and elsewhere. On the political front, the rumour mill is running hot about the likelihood of a motion of no confidence once Marape’s ‘grace period’ ends, also this week.

Australian officials will be looking for reassurance that PNG is not looking to pursue a security agreement with China. Newly reinstalled Foreign Minister Justin Tkachenko has caused confusion and consternation with his recent remarks.

Marape will be accompanied by a sizeable delegation, many of whom will be focused on progressing a bid for a PNG team to join the National Rugby League.

Questions raised regarding Fijian soldier appointed to leadership in Australia

Last month, Colonel Penioni Naliva of the Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) was appointed as deputy commander of the Australian Army’s 7th Brigade. At the time this was seen as a significant step in deepening relationships between Fiji and Australia.

Now, questions are being asked about the appointment. The Australian media has reported that Col Naliva has been the subject of several allegations relating to human rights abuses in his home country. No charges have been laid against Naliva. However, the reporting has caused some to question whether this is an appropriate appointment. Amnesty International has called for the Australian Defence Force to investigate the claims, some of which stem from a 2011 report by a UN special rapporteur.

The RFMF has responded to the media reports by denying the claims about Naliva. Lieutenant-Colonel Eroni Duaibe told RNZ Pacific that the RFMF backs Naliva.

Other Pacific News

In Tuvalu, bad weather has hampered efforts to get newly elected MPs to Funafuti so that a Prime Minister can be selected from among their number. Former PM Enele Sopoaga is one of the names suggested as a possible leader of government.

Members of the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNB-OPM) have said they plan to release NZ pilot Philip Mehrtens, who has been held captive for almost a year. The TPNB-OPM claims that the governments of New Zealand and Indonesia have not progressed Mehrtens’ release.

In Bougainville, the Autonomous Government has granted an exploration licence to Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) for the Panguna mine. President Toarama has said that Bougainville’s political aspirations require economic improvement.

In Tonga, the King has removed the Defence portfolio from Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni and has also relieved Foreign Minister Fekitameloa ‘Utoikamanau of her position. State media is reporting that the PM is out of the country, but no details have been provided.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, is undertaking his first ‘Pacific Mission’ since retaking that office. He is accompanied by Dr Shane Reti, Minister for Pacific Peoples. They will visit Tonga, Cook Islands, and Samoa.


Dr Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub.