PAPUA New Guinea and Australia will review the current policing partnership between the two countries as both seek to make it more effective.
Speaking with journalists during his visit to Port Moresby in early September, then-prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott said the issue of policing was one he regularly discussed with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill when the two met.
“There has been remarkable economic development here in PNG, particularly in and around Port Moresby, but there have been some law and order issues as well for many years here in this city,” he said.
“Peter O’Neill and the PNG government are determined to use our assistance to make the best possible use of Australian police to help the Royal PNG Constabulary to become more operationally effective and efficient and the important thing, I think, is to embed Australian police in the PNG police.”
Australia currently has about 73 officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) force operational in Papua New Guinea, but the officers are only able to take on training or advisory roles. They are not entitled to make arrests or intervene if they see a crime taking place.
Mr Abbott said the two nations ought to come to an arrangement allowing AFP officers to become participants in the PNG legal system, rather than bystanders.
“We canvassed some possible mechanisms to make that happen and hopefully there’ll be some progress in the next few weeks and months on that very important subject,” he said.
Mr O’Neill told reporters in August that the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary was keen to see Australian police officers working for and assisting local police, rather than doing the job themselves.
“We would like to recruit foreign police into line positions within the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary so they can lead by example to pass on their knowledge and skills,” he said.
The comments came as Mr O’Neill called for a rethink of the way development support is delivered in the Asia Pacific.
“I wonder if the people of Australia realise how much of the money they give to help Papua New Guinea and other countries is actually paid to middlemen and lawyers,” he said.
“As a developing country, we don’t want handouts, we don’t want Australian taxpayer money wasted and we don’t want boomerang aid.”
Instead, the PNG government would review support arrangements in a move to save money for contributing countries as well as increasing capacity of locals.
“In 2016 Papua New Guinea will move to a model where our partners will be welcome to fund positions within our government,” he said.
“These staff can then work and report through the Papua New Guinea Government system and we will deliver their salaries through arrangements with the donor countries.”
This would replace the current system where foreign workers or volunteers occupied positions and did work that Papua New Guineans would normally do.
“Then when they end their contracts they do not leave behind capacity or skills. This is not good for Papua New Guinea or the donor country,” Mr O’Neill said.
“We need to move to a point that we do not need to take a single dollar from our friends in Australia and other partners as our country develops.”
A part of this problem was the fact that talented public servants were often lured out of their roles by the offer of more lucrative positions in the private sector.
“For many years, the private sector has been draining out some of our talented public servants we need to rebuild that, we need to get them to understand that working for the government and for your country is a privilege so this will be a priority of individual to give back to our people,” he said.
“You will see better improved performance as we move back into that path.”