AUSTRALIA and Papua New Guinea have established a monthly joint ministerial forum to directly oversee implementation of the regional resettlement arrangement (RRA).
The decision was made at a special meeting in Port Moresby on 1 March between PNG Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato, PNG Attorney General Kerenga Kua and Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
The meeting also saw PNG and Australia recommit themselves to the RRA and the broader partnership that is necessary to effectively deliver on the good intentions of this agreement.
The monthly ministerial forum, beginning in April, will also involve Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop. It will provide clear direction and oversight to the implementation of the RRA and provide a timely and accountable process to ensure that the arrangement is being converted into tangible and practical outcomes.
At the March meeting, ministers expressed their great regret, sympathy and condolences regarding the recent death of Reza Barati as a result of the riot which took place at Manus Island in February.
Ministers also confirmed their commitment to the comprehensive investigations already underway into these events.
The tragic incident on Manus Island and the joint response to these events will be an early focus of the monthly ministerial forum to ensure a coordinated and cooperative approach consistent with the spirit of the partnership that already exists.
This work would include greater synchronisation of communication as well as seeking to draw together respective inquiry and review processes into the incident, the ministers said in a joint statement.
The ministers agreed that Australia and PNG would work to synthesise, as appropriate, the independent administrative review, the police investigation and the coronial inquiry to ensure a clear statement of the facts and a shared understanding of the findings and implications of these events for the ongoing management of the centre and the resettlement process.
With respect to the independent administrative inquiry to be conducted by Robert Cornall, ministers agreed the review should be conducted in partnership and with the participation of the PNG government and that arrangements would be made to incorporate this into the conduct of the review.
The forum will also receive regular updates on the delivery of A$420 million in projects, in addition to Australia’s annual PNG aid program that formed part of Australia’s commitments to this arrangement.
Delivery of these commitments has already commenced with the deployment of 50 Australian federal police officers to PNG prior to Christmas last year.
Ministers agreed that central to the RRA was the processing of asylum claims and the resettlement of genuine refugees in PNG.
Mr Morrison said the monthly forum would help to keep the important arrangement on track and “translate announcements into action, when it comes to the critical issues of processing claims and resettling refugees in PNG.”