Cautious reaction to proposed ban on visas on arrival


Business groups have reacted cautiously to the Papua New Guinea Government’s plans to scrap visas on arrival for Australian citizens.

An Air Niugini plane arrives at Port Moresby's Jacksons International Airport

An Air Niugini plane arrives at Port Moresby’s Jacksons International Airport

The PNG Cabinet has approved a ban on visas on arrival for Australian citizens, although Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has yet to sign off on the plan, which is seen as retaliation for Australia’s refusal to reciprocate the existing arrangement.

The CEO of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry, David Conn, said having to obtain a visa before arriving in PNG would be ‘a minor inconvenience’ for business people.

However, PNG High Commissions would have to gear up for the inevitable increase in visa applications, he said.

Australia’s reaction

‘In 2013, around 19,000 visas on arrival were issued to Australians entering Papua New Guinea for business and tourism purposes,’ according to a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

She told Business Advantage PNG it would be important that the new measures ‘do not impede the large number of Australians choosing to travel to Papua New Guinea for tourism or business’.

However, she suggested there were barriers to providing reciprocal visa-on-arrvial arrangement for PNG citizens entering Australia.

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‘Implementing visas on arrival at the Australian border for PNG nationals would pose significant financial and airport infrastructure challenges for Australia and Papua New Guinea,’ the spokesperson added.

‘Resolved by March’

The Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Promotion Authority, Peter Vincent, says he’s ‘very confident’ the dispute will be resolved by March.

He told Business Advantage PNG a ban would have some impact on the tourism industry, but it was ‘too early to tell’.

He said the prospect of a ban on visas on arrival would force the two governments to the negotiating table.

Reciprocity the answer

Former MP and Madang tourism operator, Sir Peter Barter, described the ban as a ‘disaster’ for tourism.

He said the only way the ban could be waived was if Australia changed its policy and gave PNG citizens visas on arrival in Australia.

‘The answer is reciprocity,’ agrees Conn. ‘But I sense the Australian Government has a policy which is not going to change.’

The Australian Papua New Guinea Business Council says a reciprocal visa arrangement would make it easier for the two countries to do business together.

‘Our general view is that entry into PNG and Australia by their respective citizens should be as easy and efficient as possible,’ Council President, Peter Taylor told Business Advantage PNG.

The DFAT spokesperson said Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG was seeking ‘clarification’ from the PNG government and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would seek clarification on the plan when she next visits PNG in early February.

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  1. Dr. Jonah Tisam says

    Yes, I agree with Kevin. Australia is still thinking “racism” as it did in the colonial era. Times have changed and PNG has educated and business people who can’t just migrate to Australia and disappear. The onus is on the Australian Government to design an immigration policy for PNG citizens that would enable easy access to do business or visit for short term , say 90 days. If it’s for long term visa for students or work visa then PNG citizens must apply in advance. That would be fair for both countries.

  2. Kevin Poke says

    Australia should reciprocate what PNG is doing. How long can Australia continue to have hardline policy on visas requirement for PNG citizens but want PNG to have softer policy for its citizen. This is unfair and PNG Government must take this stand for Australia to be dragged to the negotiating table. This is colonialist attitude by Australia. What has Australia has against PNG.

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