Labor pays tribute to the enormous contribution of the late Sir Michael Somare to public life in Papua New Guinea and in the wider Pacific region.
Sir Michael has rightly been described as a colossus of PNG’s political landscape.
He ushered in the country’s transformation from colony to independent nation, serving as Chief Minister from 1972 to 1975 when PNG was under Australian administration, then as the country’s first Prime Minister from 1975 to 1980.
The trajectory of his political career – from young leader of PNG’s nationalist movement in the 1960s, to “father of the nation” in the 1980s, to “grand chief” in recent years – represents a lifetime of service to his country.
Sir Michael was well-known and respected in Australia, not only for his role as the leader of our close neighbour, but also for his contributions to Pacific regionalism.
It is remarkable that his four terms as Chief Minister and Prime Minister spanned the Australian Prime Ministerships of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard.
We express our deep condolences to the people of PNG and to Sir Michael’s family and loved ones.