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Marape asks Australia "not to give up" on PNG after shared history across thousands of years

Jarred Cross -

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has asked Australia not to "give up" on his nation after decades serving as a "big brother or sister" during a historic speech in Canberra.

Mr Marape addressed a joint sitting of both chambers on Thursday in In the first speech delivered by a Pacific leader to Parliament, praising the legacy left by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the shared histories between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia almost 50 years since the "land of 1000 tribes'" independence in 1975.

He said Australia's most "profound" influence remains in the systems of "democracy" left.

"Our constitution, our democratic system of government, our judiciary, the public service, the education system, our financial and banking system, and our Christian worldview is what you left in PNG," Mr Marape said.

Mr Marape's speech came in the wake of recent deadly protests in PNG.

The ongoing influence of Australia in PNG's economy and culture was canvassed by Mr Marape after Anthony Albanese and opposition leader Peter Dutton reflected on continued ties between the two countries in their respective welcoming speeches.

"We are the nearest of neighbours, the most steadfast and trusted partners, and the very oldest of friends," Mr Albanese said.

The Australian Prime Minister touched on the infrastructure, trade, economy and recent $200 million bilateral security agreement announced in December.

On Wednesday, Mr Marape ruled out signing a security deal with China.

A shared passion for rugby league football was also referenced by both leaders.

Mr Dutton added PNG and Australia have "accomplished much together; personal friendships, professional relationships, and government partnerships" in the decades following independence.

Plans were laid out for PNG to reach a nation $200 billion Kina (PNG's currency) economy within 10 years, or at the "very earliest".

"Papua New Guinea must not continue to be an aid grant receiving nation - a nation that depends on borrowing every year to survive," Mr Marape said.

"We must become a strong country, standing on two feet, economically independent and strong. So we too can help Australia maintain democracy, preserve peace and ensure stability in our part of planet earth. In our Pacific."

He conceded "our challenges are many, and our systems remain fragile" before stating "not all is bad".

"Despite the huge challenges of our land, the diversity of cultures and languages, and a weak economic starting point in 1975...(our) people are resilient and continue to draw strength from the traditional social support system refined over 1000s of years," he said.

Mr Marape said PNG is on a journey towards strengthening as a mutually beneficial partner to Australia.

"I asked you do not give up on Papua New Guinea. We have always bounced back from our low moments, and we will continue to grow learning from every low moments and every high moments we learn from past experiences," he said.

"In this regard, I want to indicate to this house we are making structural reforms and trying our best to improve our public sector efficiency to carry the country for the next 50 years."

He added that "a strong economically empowered Papua New Guinea means a stronger and more secure Australia and the Pacific".

Shared histories between First Nations Australians, particularly in the Torres Strait, and PNG were identified as a bond forged many thousands of years ago.

"Ours is a relationship that has shared ethnicity, that has built on shared ethnicity between Torres Strait Islanders and my people up north from you," Mr Marape said.

"Between Indigenous Australasian people and Melanesian people who have lived in this space of planet death for more than 1000s of years."


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