In this regard I am pleased to note that of the 420 personnel currently working at the temporary centre, 291 are Papua New Guineans, including 182 Manusians. This means that one out of about every 250 Manusians is currently working at the centre. This number will only increase as the temporary centre expands and construction of the new centre at East Lorengau commences.
Businesses as well as individuals are also benefiting. An example is Loda Security that provides security guarding at the Centre. This business did not exist a year ago and it was set up specifically to meet demand created by the asylum seeker arrangements. 62 Manusians are now employed by this one local business.
Local businesses already provide some food to the facility but ideally we want to source almost all of the food from Manus. Obviously this would deliver fresher produce at more affordable rates. The opportunities are there, but we recognise that it will take time for local producers to scale up their production to meet demand.
Many more Manus businesses are also benefiting indirectly through the provision of goods and services such as hire vehicles, hotel accommodation and equipment. This represents a very significant injection of income in to Manus Province.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Local PNG firms will be able to bid for all subcontracting work related to the construction of the permanent centre. This sub-contracted work will represent approximately 90% of the value of the project. It is my expectation that the majority of these sub- contracts will be awarded to local Papua New Guinean companies. I note that the PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently facilitated seminars in Lorengau, Port Moresby and Lae at which PNG businesses were briefed on the many business opportunities that are arising from the regional processing arrangements and provided with information on how to register interest and participate in tender processes for the awarding of sub-contracts.
Concurrently, the PNG and Australian governments agreed that Manus will receive additional development assistance for its support in hosting the asylum seeker facility. In consultation with Manus Province, joint Department of National Planning and AusAID assessment missions have identified and are now implementing projects to be funded under the development assistance package.
The construction of infrastructure for 20 schools, selected by the Manus Provincial Administration, is underway. Medical equipment for Lorengau
Hospital will is now being delivered, along with a water system for the dental clinic. A master plan for the hospital is also being developed to guide future work and assist the hospital over the long term. The Provincial Government is currently scoping works for a joint Manus/AusAID project to renovate the Lorengau market. Finally, AusAID has also provided the Manus Government with a report on road infrastructure priorities where further assistance could be considered including: rehabilitating the Loniu and Nuwok bridges; resealing the Momote-Lorengau road; and rehabilitating the roads around the town square.
In addition to the end benefits, implementation of these projects will also provide employment opportunities for Manusians.
We are proud to combat the deadly trade of people smugglers. We are proud to protect genuine refugees who are in circumstances of great need. And we are proud to provide flow on benefits to the people, communities and businesses of PNG.
But Members would be aware that there are those who would seek to undo this good work through frivolous court challenges. We must not let that happen.
Therefore, I have put forward a proposed amendment to the Constitution to put beyond doubt the Government’s ability to restrict the personal liberty of people transferred to PNG under regional asylum seeker arrangements, or similar arrangements. I urge the Members of the House to support its passage.
The 1951 Refugees Convention was created in the aftermath of World War II and did not anticipate the scale of global irregular migration or the peril that dangerous long-distance sea voyages could bring to the very people that the Convention seeks to protect.
PNG is showing clear leadership in the region to strengthen regional cooperation in accordance with the Convention and to work with regional partners to find new ways to stop people smugglers from plying their deadly trade.
Sharing the burden of refugee issues is about more than just words. It means that each country must do a little more to protect vulnerable refugees – not just against persecution, but also against exploitation by people smugglers.
Our country’s contribution to regional efforts towards combating people smuggling will not be an easy one but this government is determined to play a central part.
Hon. Rimbink Pato, LLB, OBE, MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration