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Abbott in PNG: Advice from the younger generation

Abbott in PNG: Advice from the younger generation
Published 20 Mar 2014 

Tonight, Tony Abbott flies into Port Moresby on his first visit to Papua New Guinea as prime minister.

So far his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has done the heavy lifting in the relationship, building on several visits in opposition with a high profile visit in February. The Abbott Government has made relations with PNG one of its highest foreign policy priorities, with $527.7 million of Australian aid destined for the country in this financial year (not including an additional $420 million over four years as part of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement) and $18.6 billion of Australian investment in PNG.

Abbott has a busy agenda, with plans to meet with PNG's cabinet and Australian Federal Police officers, visit Australian-funded development projects and lay a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery. The policy focus of the visit is on the economic relationship, with discussions on trade and investment, aid and visas. Manus Island is of course also likely to feature in the Prime Minister's political meetings.

The Prime Minister will also meet with some of PNG's emerging leaders. There are some fine strategic thinkers among PNG's emerging middle class who have good connections with Australia and big ambitions for their country. [fold]

They deserve to be heard, both by Mr Abbott and their own prime minister. Some have already identified that the Abbott Government is focusing on young people to deepen the Australia-PNG relationship and that the Prime Minister 'wants to have his finger on the pulse' of PNG. The Lowy Institute, with the support of the Australian Government, has already hosted the Australia-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue in an effort to forge new connections among young professionals, and will be managing the new Australia-PNG Network to help expand people-to-people relations.

Visits by Abbott’s predecessors were marked by PNG parents naming their children in honour of the visiting Australian leaders. If the Prime Minister does pay attention to young PNG leaders, there may even be a baby named Tony Abbott to join little Kevin Rudd Junior and Julia Gillard.

In the lead-up to the trip, the Lowy Institute went to Twitter to ask young people for their top tips and questions for Tony Abbott on his first visit to PNG. Above and below are some of the best responses.

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