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PNG PM wants easier visa access to Australia

"We give Australians visa on arrival, they (Australians) dont need to go to Canberra to get a Visa, the same principal should be applied to PNG visitors to Australia"
PETER O'NEILL, PNG Prime Minister

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has called on Australia to offer easier access to Australian visas for Papua New Guineans.

Mr O'Neill says says Australia's policy of requiring a visa prior to departure is reducing the number of Papua New Guineans able to visit Australia.

He's told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program Papua New Guineans deserve the option of visas on arrival, to match the arrangements his country offers Australians.

"I think Papua New Guinea deserves the opportunity to have a similar arrangement to that Australia has with New Zealand," he said.

"New Zealand has never been a colony of Australia, whereas Papua New Guinea has.

"I think Australia ought to learn from such experiences."

Mr O'Neill says the travel restrictions, combined with the international perception of law and order in his country, are impairing links between the country.

But he says as more businesses look to PNG for investment opportunities, that is like to change.

"More and more people are starting to come back into the country," he said.

"Papua New Guinea is a very friendly country and I believe that when Australians start to appreciate the uniqueness of Papua New Guinea numbers will increase."

Over the past 10 years, PNG has posted impressive economic growth - managing an average growth rate of 8 per cent a year over the whole decade.

That has prompted a flood of new foreign investment not just in the big name projects such as the ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project or the Chinese-owned Ramu Nickel plant but in a host of smaller, concerns as well.

Mr O'Neill says if investors look towards PNG with the right attitude, they can reap the rewards of that growth.

"They need to bring an attitude where there must be some flexibility and willingness to work with the local communities," he said.

"A large portion of our land is owned by traditional landowners, [so] there must be an appreciation of the customs and the practices here.

"But, you know, many of the investors in Australia, and Australian companies that operate here in Papua New Guinea have been operating for decades, and they have been able to adapt and work closely with our people and one that is profitable to them and they continue to invest in our country."