The Lowy Institute hosted 22 emerging leaders from Papua New Guinea and Australia for the inaugural Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue on 26 November 2013. The Dialogue was convened with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and was an initiative that arose from the 2012 Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum. It was agreed at the Forum that Australia would host an annual Emerging Leaders Dialogue to enhance and promote people-to-people links in a new generation of Australians and Papua New Guineans.
The Dialogue identified many commonalities between Australia and Papua New Guinea and proposed a range of new ways to build on and expand people-to-people links. Such links deliver benefits at a community, business and personal level and can also act as a ballast to sustain the official bilateral relationship through difficult times. Links should be built on cooperation and knowledge-sharing, with equality and partnership as the guiding dynamic. The Dialogue was structured around four key themes: Growing the economy and attracting investment in the Asian Century; Politics and accountability – new expectations; National infrastructure challenges – new approaches; and Reform and innovations in the delivery of health and education services.
The wide-ranging and vibrant discussion revealed many common challenges faced by Australia and Papua New Guinea. These ranged from slowing growth in the resources sector, to infrastructural bottlenecks, the increasing economic and social burden imposed by the effects of climate change, the need to support investment and growth through improved data collection, and more stable regulatory and fiscal frameworks. Both countries face ongoing challenges in rural service delivery as well as rising public health bills from non-communicable diseases. Australia and Papua New Guinea both needed to do more to encourage young people to engage with the political system. These commonalities highlighted opportunities for Australians and Papua New Guineans to work together on shared challenges.