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PORT MORESBY: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Thursday for a “swift” new security deal with Papua New Guinea, as his government seeks to parry China’s expanding influence in the Pacific.

In a first-ever address to the Papua New Guinea parliament by a foreign head of government, Albanese underscored the need for a Pacific “family first” approach – implicitly at Beijing’s expense.

The Australian leader urged a “swift conclusion” to negotiations on a security treaty covering “law and order challenges” in the resource-rich Pacific nation.

It would be “a treaty based on deep trust and a treaty that builds on the family first approach to regional security”, said the prime minister, embarking on a two-day visit after a Covid-19 infection delayed his original plan for a trip in December.

Albanese’s centre-left government has acted rapidly to shore up ties with Pacific nations since its election in May 2022, deeply concerned by China’s expanding diplomatic, economic and military influence.

Western powers were shaken in April last year when it emerged China had signed a secretive security pact with Solomon Islands, with a leaked draft showing it could open the door to Chinese naval visits.

The following month, however, a Chinese proposal for a wider regional pact to dramatically boost Beijing’s role in Pacific security was rejected by leaders amid fears it would pull them into China’s orbit.

Australian PM urges end to Assange proceeding

Australia has longstanding defence ties with Papua New Guinea, encompassing both its armed forces and police.

It is set to hand over four patrol boats to the country this year.

Papua New Guinea, which gained independence from Australian administration in 1975, is the biggest recipient of Australian aid – with an estimated Aus$480 million (US$330 million) scheduled this year.

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