19 May 2015
PNG imposes ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill gave a talk at the Lowy Institute in Sydney last Thursday.
The Papua New Guinean government has banned Australians from travelling to Bougainville.
The ban comes after Australia's announcement that it planned to build a new diplomatic mission in the capital, a move that was slammed by PNG officials.
On Monday PNG's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato said the stringent measure would take effect immediately.
"I have instructed the Chief Migration Officer to impose the ban with immediate effect and to notify all PNG Overseas Missions and Posts and domestic carriers of the ban," he said in a statement.
The move follows harsh words from PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute in Sydney on Thursday, where he said he was "shocked" by Australia's moves to create the new Open Mission in Bougainville.
Mr O'Neill said the Abbott government did not consult with PNG about the decision and that he had heard of the plans from media reports.
The new diplomatic post was part of the government's 2015 Budget measure to commit $98.3 million to open five new overseas missions.
"As we respect the territorial integrity of others, we expect others to respect ours as well.
"We don't want governments to go around creating offices everywhere around the country that will create the wrong interpretation and wrong meaning to our people," Mr O'Neill said.
"We've got sensitivities around areas like Bougainville with the elections that are underway at the present ... and of course we are concerned about the message the establishment of this consulate will give to our people in Papua New Guinea."
But Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she had discussed the proposed Bougainville mission with the PNG Government during her visit in December 2014.
"Australia's High Commissioner also formally advised the PNG Government of the intention to announce a diplomatic presence in Buka, in consultation with the PNG Government, in the lead up to the 2015 Budget," Ms Bishop said in a statement following Mr O'Neill's speech.
Ms Bishop had instructed a senior DFAT official to travel to PNG in response to questions about the ban.
"I am continuing my engagement with the PNG Government at the highest levels," Ms Bishop said in a statement on Monday.
The ban will apply to all Australian passports holders on tourist, business and other short term entry visas, including foreigners who apply for a visa through a PNG Overseas Missions and Post.
Australians living in Bougainville on work and permanent resident visas will not be affected, Mr Pato said.
All Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials who wish to travel to Bougainville will now need to be cleared by the Department of Foreign Affairs beforehand, he said.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and trade have updated their travel advice for Australians considering travelling to the PNG capital, notifying them of the ban.
Australians in PNG who have queries about the ban were directed to their nearest diplomatic mission of Papua New Guinea for clarification.
DFAT currently recommends Australians exercise a high degree of caution when travelling in PNG.
Julie Bishop the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has been contacted for comment.