PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has confirmed he is pressing ahead with plans to ban visas on arrival for Australians visiting the Pacific nation.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will seek clarification on Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s plans to ban visas on arrival for Australian visitors.
According to PNG media outlets, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has confirmed the National Executive Council (NEC), a cabinet-like body, approved the move last week.
Mr O’Neill denies the plan discriminates against Australians.
“There is no discrimination whatsoever,” Mr O’Neill told the Port Moresby-based Post Courier newspaper on Tuesday.
“All Australians travelling to PNG have to get a visa before arrival, except for those Australians who are travelling by boat to ports like Kokopo or Tabubil, who will get a visa on arrival because of the difficulties in obtaining them beforehand.
“We have similar arrangements with other countries and we will make sure similar arrangements are in place for other world partners. It is the same arrangement. It’s called reciprocal rights.”
The ban is expected to come into force after Mr O’Neill agrees to it.
The move follows a threat from Mr O’Neill in November to withdraw visas-on-arrival arrangements with Australia unless Australia reciprocated.
In recent years, there has been tension between Port Moresby and Canberra over what Mr O’Neill has called unfair visa restrictions on his countrymen.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would seek clarification on the issue when she next visited PNG.
Australian High Commissioner Deborah Stokes is also seeking clarification from the PNG government.
Australia has introduced shorter visa waiting times and created a dedicated arrival lane for PNG nationals at Brisbane and Cairns airports.
Australia also has an online visa application process for PNG citizens travelling south.
“Australia has a universal visa requirement for all non-citizens intending to enter Australia,” the DFAT spokesperson said in a statement.
“This is a fundamental element of our border controls. Australia does not operate a visa waiver program for any country.”
In 2013, about 19,000 visas on arrival were issued to Australians visiting PNG for tourism and business, DFAT said.