Anthony Albanese's historic move as Australia eyes China encroachment

Anthony Albanese will use his historic address to Papua New Guinea's parliament to call for a "swift conclusion" of security pact negotiations between the nations as Australia tries to deepen its military engagement in the face of China's creeping influence.

In becoming the first foreign leader to speak at the PNG parliament today, the prime minister will call his hosts "neighbours who stand with each other and help each other in times of need" and ask a highly sought-after deal be finalised.

The wide-ranging speech Thursday will touch on climate change, education, health, biosecurity and infrastructure, but it's Mr Albanese's defence comments that will stand out with fears of China expanding their military presence north of Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be the first foreign leader to address PNG's parliament today. Source: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be the first foreign leader to address PNG's parliament today. Source: AAP

"Australia and Papua New Guinea have a chance to ... deepen our defence ties (by) enhancing our national security co-operation and achieving a swift conclusion to negotiations on a bilateral security treaty," Mr Albanese will tell the parliament.

"A treaty that will underpin our work together to address PNG's priority needs including law and order challenges, strengthening the justice system and rule of law ... and a treaty that builds on the family-first approach to regional security."

Australia, the United States and other allies have been seeking a deal after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands last year, raising alarm bells in Canberra.

In December, it was revealed China is bankrolling a military hospital for Papua New Guinea's Defence Force with the plan revealed by the country's Chief of Defence Major General Mark Goina. "I am grateful to announce Chinese commitment to fund the constructions of the PNGDF Military Hospital at Taurama Barracks," he said of the Port Morseby project last month.

The Albanese government is seeking to counteract such activities, declaring it wants to be the "partner of choice" for PNG and other Pacific nations when it comes to security.

"This can be a decisive decade for peace, prosperity, unity and security in the Indo-Pacific," Mr Albanese will say.

Climate change will also feature prominently, with the prime minister calling for the two nations to "show leadership and take action" in the Pacific.

"There is not a moment to waste. It is up to our generation to protect the precious and unique natural environment of our rainforests, reefs and coasts," he will say.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with his Papua New Guinea counterpart Soroi Marepo Eoe during a ceremony of agreements signing in Port Moresby on June 3, 2022. Source: Getty
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with his Papua New Guinea counterpart Soroi Marepo Eoe during a ceremony of agreements signing in Port Moresby on June 3, 2022. Source: Getty

"To build - and plan - our infrastructure so our communities are more resilient and better prepared for natural disasters."

He will also urge the region to continue pushing into clean energy technology and "grasp the transformative economic benefits".

'Today will be a historic day'

PNG's Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko told ABC Radio that critical documents cementing the agreement will be signed on Thursday, marking an "historic" day for the two nations.

"Today will be a historical day between Papua New Guinea and Australia," he said.

Mr Tkatchenko explained the agreement, which has been worked on for months, is "about regional security, defence cooperation and enhancing PNG’s defence force and its capabilities going forward".

The security treaty will include Australia providing support, funding and training for PNG's defence forces as well as making the country's defence infrastructure more modern and improving its surveillance capabilities, he said.

Mark Goina revealed the project at an event attended by Chinese dignitaries. Source: Australian Department of Defence
Major General Mark Goina revealed a Beijing-backed military hospital project in the PNG capital at an event attended by Chinese dignitaries in December. Source: Australian Department of Defence

However when pressed on PNG's ties with China and the recent announcement of the military hospital being built by Beijing, Mr Tkatchenko gave no indication of backing away from China.

"China is our biggest economic partner and we work with them in many different ways," he said.

"We’re open to working with all our partners."

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