HOSPITALS, young people, refugees and rugby were the order of the day when Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill met with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra in January.

Both Australia and Papua New Guinea had agreed to fund a redevelopment of the Lae Angau Memorial Hospital, with Australia investing up to A$207 million in what it says will be the largest health infrastructure project since PNG’s independence.

Mr O’Neill said PNG officials, the Angau Hospital Administration and Australian officials were working together on the project.

“This will be a hospital of world class standing, and will have the highest standard of medical care available for our people in the coming years.”

The masterplanning process for the hospital will include consultations with all stakeholders, an assessment of existing clinical and non-clinical services and facilities and an analysis of needs and gaps in services and facilities.

It will recommend a comprehensive site plan for the redevelopment and a phased demolition and construction program. Construction will be staged in order to maintain full operation of current hospital services.

The leaders also spoke about the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, used by the Australian government to detain unauthorised asylum seekers, with Mr Abbott thanking Mr O’Neill for Papua New Guinea’s management of the centre.

Mr O’Neill said processes were underway to enable refugees to move to the transit centre for final documentation to be completed so they can be resettled in Papua New Guinea.

The leaders also discussed PNG’s new National Youth Service initiative of the Government, providing training for young men and women who have been displaced by the education system over past years.

“This will also be skill-based training so that young Papua New Guineans can acquire skills that will improve their own lives,” Mr O’Neill said, adding that about 4,000 young people were expected to take up the program when it started in Port Moresby.

“The Australian Government has advised that they will be able to assist by providing trainers and other support that might be required,” Mr O’Neill said

Mr Abbott said he and Mr O’Neill had discussed a range of important bilateral and regional issues, noting that the nations’ economic links continued to expand.

“We underlined our shared commitment to strengthening regional cooperation in the Pacific in the lead-up to this year’s Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders meeting in PNG in September, which I look forward to attending,” Mr Abbott said in an announcement.

“The PIF remains the region’s pre-eminent regional body – I am delighted that it will be guided this year by my friend Peter O’Neill because PNG has a critical role to play in our region.”

The leaders also discussed sporting engagement between the two countries with his counterpart, with Mr O’Neill saying both men were keen followers of rugby league.

“Hopefully one day with the improved PRL facilities in Port Moresby we might host an NRL game or even a State of Origin game. That will be memorable for Papua New Guinea,” Mr O’Neill said.

“We will look to convince rugby league officials that Papua New Guinea is a destination to host such an event.”