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Australia hopes to ‘really elevate’ ties with Papua New Guinea amid China concerns, extends rugby diplomacy

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Thursday said Marape’s speech and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s speech in the PNG parliament last year – a first by a foreign leader – were critical as both countries sought to “really elevate” their relationship.

She said there had been a “decade of inaction” from the previous government in relation to Australia’s relationship with its Pacific neighbours and Australia must now work harder, given greater competition in the region stemming from China’s growing influence.

“We live in a different era, and we’re not going back to where we were … what we are doing is re-emphasising our part in the Pacific family and the importance of that engagement, and you’re seeing that today,” she said.

Reinforcing the need for stronger relations with the Pacific nations and other countries and to avoid being blind sided by new powers in the region, Wong and shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham on the same day launched a new paper that called for Canberra to adopt a whole-of nation foreign policy, not one that was executed by just “one arm of government”.

“It’s not just up to our diplomats in the world. It starts with who we are as a country, our first nation’s history, our multicultural fabric, our institutions, business, academia, and civil society,” Wong said.

The Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) that prepared the report through consultations with over 90 multidiscipline organisations, said Canberra must avoid “foreign policy autopilot” and implement an international policy that also involved non-government organisations such as business, NGOs, community and diaspora groups, and sports.

Other reports such as Australia’s new Defence Strategic Review had