Speech - Pacific ICT Ministers’ Dialogue: Australia’s Country Statement, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Honourable Chair and Vice-Chairs, distinguished colleagues.

It is an honour to be with you, in Port Moresby, for the Pacific ICT Ministerial Dialogue 2023.

On behalf of the Australian delegation, I express our deep gratitude to Papua New Guinea, and personally to Minister Masiu, for reinvigorating discussions on our shared ICT priorities at the Ministerial level and for hosting this meeting.

I congratulate Minister Masiu, Minister Vaimua Muliava from New Calendonia, and Minister Onesemo from Samoa for being nominated as Chair and Vice-Chairs.

Today’s dialogue is an opportunity to reflect on recent developments in our respective countries, and to reaffirm our shared vision for a safe and resilient region through our joint Declaration - the Lagatoi Declaration on Digital Transformation of the Pacific.

Australia has been undertaking important work in a range of policy areas to keep our people safe and connected – a mission I know is shared with those here today.

On this - my first international visit as Minister - I have engaged in many enlightening discussions with my esteemed Pacific counterparts, including Solomon Islands Minister Shanel Agovaka, PNG Minister Jason Peters, Fiji Minister Kamikamica, and of course PNG Minister Masiu.

From these discussions so far, it is clear that the challenges we face in Australia are – more often than not – shared by our respective countries in the Pacific region.

Challenges faced online are usually not confined by borders; including tackling harmful mis and disinformation, grappling with relentless scams, striking the right balance with age verification, and creating an inclusive online environment for our most vulnerable, like Indigenous communities, people with disability, older persons, and women and girls.

While Australia is not a nation of vast island archipelagos, it is a nation of vast remote and regional areas.

We share many of the same hurdles to providing universal ICT services, and ultimately close the digital divide.

As new technologies evolve, so do harms.

But with these shared challenges, come opportunities for continued collaboration and cooperation to address these issues.

Along with Australia’s independent regulator established in 2015, the eSafety Commissioner, our work to improve online safety is underpinned by strategic Pacific partnerships and I look forward to engaging with you as we continue to undertake these missions.

Australia is also involved in many initiatives to support robust and resilient telecommunications infrastructure in our region.

We partnered with Solomon Islands and PNG on the Coral Sea Cable system, a realisation of Australia’s 2017 International Cyber Engagement Strategy.

Following the 2023 Quad Summit, Prime Minister Albanese, with other Quad leaders, announced a new ‘Quad Partnership for Cable Connectivity and Resilience’ to strengthen cable systems in the Indo-Pacific.

This is because we know that connectivity changes lives.

As a member of the Pacific family, Australia remains committed to working with our counterparts, by supporting digital innovation, entrepreneurship and skills development through knowledge exchange and trainings; building resilient infrastructure with targeted investment; and ensuring security and trust in ICT ecosystem through capacity building initiatives and awareness campaigns.

We also need to bring the global community along on our digital transformation journey. Nobody should be left behind.

Australia will continue amplifying our Pacific voice on the global stage – calling on development partners to recognise an exceptional set of challenges faced by the region and to respect cultural values and traditional knowledge.

We know that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is neither effective, nor sustainable.

To that end, we have partnered with our Pacific colleagues and the International Telecommunication Union to deliver a project that will identify the best sustainable solutions to address telecommunication and ICT development needs of the Pacific Island countries and territories.

Australia is also a proud supporter of ITU’s work to bridge the gender digital divide.

The Australian Government was proud to partner last year with the ITU to deliver a gender-equality initiative, providing training to help women delegates prepare for negotiating, policy-making and chairing roles in ITU and beyond and we will continue to support similar gender focussed initiatives in the future.

Australia remains committed to providing ongoing support to our Pacific region and I look forward to working with our Pacific family to build a more interconnected and inclusive region in the years to come.

Thank you.