Marles says Australian position on Bougainville unchanged

4:19 pm on 21 October 2022

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and defence minister Richard Marles says his government's foreign policy on Bougainville remains unchanged.

Mr Marles' comments follow scathing criticism from the Bougainville President, Ishmael Toroama, who had accused him of taking sides with Papua New Guinea over the Bougainville independence question.

Toroama issued a statement saying Marles has made clear that Canberra would back whatever position the PNG Government reached on the Bougainville issue.

Bougainvlle's Government is committed to achieving independence by 2027 at the latest with progress expected in the next year.

Toroama says since the end of the Bougainville Civil War Australia had maintained a neutral stance, but now Australia has clearly come up in support of Port Moresby.

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Richard Marles speaks at the Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Photo: AFP

Marles was asked by the Pacnews Agency to respond and he said Australia remains committed to the Bougainville peace agreement.

"Australia was a witness to the Bougainvillle peace agreement more than 20 years ago. And as such, we are completely committed to the processes contained within the Bougainville peace agreement," he said.

He said nothing in his comments last week in Port Moresby were intended to signal any change in Australian policy over a long period of time, in respect of that.

"The political settlement that will ultimately be reached by all parties to that agreement is one that Australia will obviously support. And that's where Australia stands. And that's where we've always stood," Marles said.