Rudd announces $40 million funding for PNG health infrastructure

01/10/2011 14:09

Kevin Rudd MP being welcomed to Goroka, Eastern Highlands province as the Australian prime

minister in a state visit to Papua New Guinea in March 2008.  

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today announced $40 million in funding for health infrastructure as he highlighted Papua New Guinea's deteriorating health indicators.

Mr Rudd made the announcement during a visit this morning to a health centre in Abau district outside the PNG capital Port Moresby. He flew into Port Moresby last night on a two-day visit and will also hold discussions with his PNG counterpart Ano Pala and PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“Some 80 per cent of the population in PNG live in rural and very remote areas where health services are poor or non-existent, and they are dying of preventable and treatable diseases. Children in villages are dying from pneumonia and women are dying in childbirth at the rate of five a day in PNG, many of them in rural or remote areas,” he said.

The $40 million is Australia’s contribution to an $80 million Asia Development Bank (ADB) project which will see the construction of 32 new community health posts, refurbish 128 health centres and provide housing for 224 staff.

 Australia’s $486 million development assistance program and trade will dominate discussions when he meets Mr Pala and Mr O’Neill. People smuggling, Fiji and RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) are also on the agenda.

The significance of Mr O’Neill’s election as Prime Minister and the toppling of the Somare government in August could not be overlooked, with Mr Rudd saying the leadership change had implications for the two countries’ bilateral relations.

“We are at an important stage in one of Australia's most significant bilateral relationships, as a new generation of leaders emerges in Papua New Guinea. The relationship is very strong, and the historical emphasis on aid has evolved into a broader, genuine partnership, based on shared interests and shared challenges,” he said.

A billboard that was erected at the Goroka airport in PNG's Eastern Highlands in honor of Kevin

Rudd MP when he visited the province as Australian prime minister in March 2008.

Mr Rudd said Australia and PNG were working jointly on the PNG government's plan to set up sovereign wealth funds to manage revenue from the country’s resource boom.

PNG's economy is expected to grow by 9% in 2011 and trade and investment links are growing rapidly between the two countries in mining, transport and service industries such as banking.

He added that talks will also zoom in on Australia’s development assistance program with PNG and how the two countries are working to refocus the aid program away from expensive consultants.

"Since 2007, Australia's development partnership with PNG has deepened, with the two nations working to refocus the aid program away from consultants to delivering real results in education and health."

The trip is Mr Rudd’s first visit to PNG as foreign minister though he did make a state visit as Australian prime minister in March 2008.