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‘Son of PNG’ thanks Australia in historic first speech

Anthony Albanese has welcomed PNG Prime Minister James Marape to Australia for his latest visit.

Anthony Albanese has welcomed PNG Prime Minister James Marape to Australia for his latest visit. Photo: AAP

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has thanked Australian governments and investors for their economic support in a historic speech.

James Marape on Thursday became the first Pacific leader to address federal parliament, lauding close bonds between the near neighbours.

Marape used his speech to reflected on the nearly 50 years since PNG was granted independence from Australia in 1975.

“I want to say thank you to the memory of prime minister Whitlam for hearing the cries of the founding fathers of Papa New Guinea for our own self determination,” he said.

“It is true our challenges are many and our systems remain fragile, it is true our people need greater empowerment in many aspects of their life.

“But not all is bad, not all is bad, nearly 50 years on, our democracy remains strong as ever.”

Marape spoke of PNG moving away from being a “donor-recipient nation” and towards becoming economically important and self-sufficient, thanking Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for signing a recent bilateral agreement.

“It holds a blueprint that reflects our focus collectively and a focus of energy becoming a strong economically resilient nation,” he said.

“A strong economically and powered Papua New Guinea means a stronger and more secure Australia in the Pacific.”

Australia and PNG were close in every sense of the word, Albanese said.

“We are the nearest of neighbours, the most steadfast and trusted partners, and the very oldest of friends,” he told parliament.

“Our connection stretches back thousands of years to Torres Strait Islanders and Indigenous traders, weaving together their cultures and communities.”

James Marape is welcomed to federal parliament

Source: X/Milton Dick

PNG independence was not a gift from Australia but a right its people asserted, Albanese said.

“It speaks for a universal truth

“Every Pacific nation, big and small, has the right to shape its own future and secure its own destiny.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton reflected on the appreciation Australians felt towards their Pacific neighbours following soldiers fighting side by side at Kokoda during World War II.

“To this day, Australians commemorate the tenacity of your soldiers – the bravery of your coast watchers and the compassion of your Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who all helped to turn the tide of the war,” he said.

Marape received a ceremonial welcome and signed the official visitors book at Parliament House before he addressed a joint sitting of senators and MPs.

His visit follows deadly riots in Port Moresby, which were triggered by growing unrest over PNG’s precarious economic outlook.

The Pacific nation is also in the spotlight after holding security talks with China, but its senior ministers have ruled out doing a deal.

– AAP

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