By Eoin Blackwell,
AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent
PAPUA New Guinea has no better or older friend than Australia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has told villagers in the remote highlands home of his PNG counterpart Rimbink Pato.Senator Carr, on the second day of a four-day trip to Australia's closest neighbour, made the comments to a crowd of about 1000 people in Mr Pato's home village of Wapenamanda.
"Our relationship is changing. Australia respects the independence; we respect the role of PNG; we work together in RAMSI; we work on Fiji; we work on people smuggling," Senator Carr said.
"The future holds a great promise for PNG and no other country wants you to prosper more than your old friends, Australia.
"Old friends are the best friends and you have no older friend or better friend than Australia."
Australia provides about half a billion dollars in development aid to PNG annually.
Senator Carr was also echoing comments he made the day before in nearby Mt Hagen, saying he expected PNG's international status to rise under the leadership of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.Mr O'Neill is due back in PNG on Wednesday after wrapping up an Australian speaking tour in which he decried the media's coverage of PNG as harmful and hurtful.
Shortly after becoming foreign minister, Senator Carr drew the ire of some PNG politicians when he said Australia would organise sanctions against the Pacific nation if it cancelled the 2012 elections - an issue being hotly debated at the time.
This trip marks Senator Carr's second visit to PNG since he was a union official in 1976, and his first since becoming foreign minister in March 2012.
While in Wapenamanda - set deep in a lush valley surrounded by moss green mountainous terrain in Enga Province - Senator Carr toured parts of a primary school where a temporary library and teacher's meeting rooms have been named in his honour.
But in perhaps the truest sign of friendship in PNG, Senator Carr was gifted with a live pig, roughly the size of a Vespa motor scooter, after being carried into Wapenamanda along with Mr Pato on a grass and balloon decorated sedan chair.
He quickly gifted the pig back to the villagers, joking that Australian customs officials would not allow him to take a live swine back home.
Returning to Port Moresby on Wednesday, Senator Carr also paid a visit to Bomana war cemetery on the city's outskirts to lay a wreath at the cenotaph.
Bomana is the final resting place for more than 3000 Australian soldiers killed in PNG in World War II.
On Thursday, Senator Carr will join Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare in Port Moresby for the 21st Australia-PNG ministerial summit.
The forum will canvass issues such as PNG's sovereign wealth fund, progress on the Pacific agreement on closer economic relations, and a new economic cooperation treaty between the two countries.