He said the Australian govern-ment must seriously review visa requirements and make these requirements fairer.
“After 43 years of nationhood, the people of Papua New Guinea are entitled to expect the relationship with our closest neighbour to be one of maturity and respect,” Mr O’Neill said.
“The difficulties Papua New Guineans have in obtaining visas to visit Australia discriminate against our people and totally disregards the historical relationship we share.
Mr O’Neill said the record of Papua New Guineans in complying with visa requirements in Australia was excellent.
“We have to wonder what some officials in the Australian bureaucracy are worried about,” he said.
“There is no evidence to justify the impositions placed on Papua New Guineans seeking a visa.
“Papua New Guineans do not overstay their visas in Australia, we always return to our families and our provinces. Even when we pass away our bodies are returned to our homes for burial.
“Why do Papua New Guineans have to jump through hoops while hundreds of thousands of people from places such as the Middle East are given easy access to Australia?
“This is a blight on an otherwise robust, friendly and mutually beneficial relationship, which has at its heart a genuine people-to-people affection.”
Mr O’Neill said PNG has raised discriminatory visa issues on numerous occasions during bi-lateral discussions with Australian leaders, but only cosmetic changes have been made.
“Our country has a rising middle class, these are people who work hard and want to have a holiday or do business in Australia, but instead they spend their money in Asia because they are treated so badly by the Australian process,” he said.
“We also have workers who would like to do jobs on Australian farms that Aussies are not interested in taking, but countries that have no real history with Australia have a greater allocation of visas.
“The key element of the future growth of our relationship is the deepening of people-to-people links in areas such as education, sports, tourism, and business and investment.
“Restrictive and discriminatory visa entry rules are an impediment to growing our relationship. It is impediment that it is totally unjustified.”
Mr O’Neill said the government would continue to raise the issue with Australia’s political leaders – both government and opposition.