Aust Minister clarifies Lombrum plan

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, says the re-development of Lombrum Naval Base in Manus Province will not be an Australian Naval Base but a shared facility for both the PNG and Australia Defence Forces.

Speaking to media after the APEC Ministerial Meeting, Payne said they will be working closely with the PNG Government and defence forces to build the facility.

“Australia has indicated that we will be working with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and Papua New Guinea Government to develop some shared facilities there, not an Australian Naval Base,” said Minister Payne.

“It is historically an area of engagement in history, but what we are going to be able to do – as we do in other parts of Papua New Guinea – is work closely with the PNGDF to develop capacity and capability.

“It’s a core part of our defence cooperation program which I must say is Australia’s largest defence cooperation anywhere, and one of our oldest.

“We look forward to working with those facilities and making sure we can build together a fit for purpose and appropriate base facility in the Lombrum area for the use of the PNGDF, for the use of Australia and others as we see fit.”

The announcement of the re-development follows the signing by PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, on November 1st .

Morrison said the initiative will further enhance interoperability between our defence forces, and deepen maritime security cooperation, including through increased Australian ship visits over time.

News of the agreement however, has not been received well by Manus Parliamentary Leaders who say they have again been left out of the discussions, like the Regional Processing Centre agreement in 2013.

The Lombrum Naval Base was established by the US during World War II and later used by Australian naval ships for resupply in the 1950s and 1960s.

Cedric Patjole