Joint media release: Aussie agriculture and PNG big winners from PM's PNG visit

16 January 2023

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt
Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Minister for Defence Industry

Strengthening biosecurity, improving trade connections and expanding the PALM worker scheme are some of the key agricultural outcomes of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s historic visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG).

A key focus of the discussions between the Prime Minister and his PNG counterpart James Marape was support for PNG’s plans to expand its agricultural production and to build on Australia’s significant investment in infrastructure, commodity development and biosecurity.

The two leaders also declared their intention to significantly boost PNG’s participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM), a crucial source of agriculture workers in Australia.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt welcomed the announcements, which resulted from months of work by officials from both countries, and said they offered significant potential for both countries to expand their agricultural production.

“As our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea is such an important partner to the Australian agriculture sector,” Minister Watt said.

“I particularly welcome the announcement of Prime Minister Marape’s ambition to deploy 8,000 PALM workers to Australia.

“The PALM scheme is rapidly growing and helping farmers and meat processors across Australia to fill gaps in their workforce.

“At the same time, the scheme assists Pacific workers earn important income which supports their families back home.

“So it is great to see these channels of opportunity begin to open up.”

Minister Conroy said the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme is central to the Albanese Government’s strategy for ensuring Australia is partner of choice for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region.

“In a region where more than one third of people live on less than $1,000 per year, long term PALM workers send home an average of $15,000,” Mr Conroy said.

“This is lifting Pacific families out of poverty, sustaining communities and boosting economies devastated by the impact of COVID.

“I look forward to working with the PNG Government on strengthening Papua New Guinea's worker mobilisation system and enhancing its participation in PALM.

“This will be good news for Australian farmers facing labour shortages and good news for PNG workers who will gain skills and income to support their families and communities back home.”

Minister Watt said strengthening the biosecurity capability of both nations was vital.

“We need to be incredibly vigilant, particularly with exotic animal disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in Indonesia.”

“If left uncontrolled, there is a risk these diseases could spread through PNG and come to Australia.

“That’s why last year the Albanese Government provided $5 million in funding to provide technical expertise and support to PNG to assist their work in combatting livestock diseases.

“I’m looking forward to engaging in further dialogue with my ministerial counterpart in PNG to continue progressing these opportunities.”