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Abbott hold talks with PNG leader

AAP logoAAP 3/11/2016 Lisa Martin

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has been holding court with Papua New Guinea's prime minister in Port Moresby.

Peter O'Neill said the pair had "informal wide ranging" talks and discussed the achievements of both governments, national development, Pacific affairs and sport.

Port Moresby was the destination of Mr Abbott's last overseas trip as prime minister last September before Malcolm Turnbull toppled him for the top job days after he returned from the Pacific Islands Forum.

From afar Mr O'Neill has watched the game of musical chairs in the prime minister's office in Canberra.

"I have always had a very warm relationship with Tony Abbott, as I have with all Australian prime ministers who have served over the past five years during my time in office," Mr O'Neill said.

They also discussed the PNG government's economic woes, falling commodity prices and how Mr O'Neill was trying to shield free education and universal healthcare from budget cuts.

Mr O'Neill asked Mr Abbott to support a push for PNG to have a team in the NRL and one day host the Commonwealth Games.

PNG is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2018.

The event will prove an enormous security challenge for Port Moresby, a hub of violent crime.

Australia is expected to provide assistance.

But despite some international scepticism, Mr Abbott said he believes PNG is up to the job.

"Port Moresby is no sleepy outpost - it's the metropolis of the Melanesian world and a worthy host of the 2018 APEC summit," he said in a speech to Anglicare PNG's annual dinner.

"As prime minister, I said that I hoped PNG would not see Australia as its big brother but as its best friend."

He also praised the PNG government's support in Australia's crackdown on people smuggling and asylum seeker boats.

The PNG government has announced it's looking to close down the Manus Island detention centre, following a court ruling it was illegal, but no time frame has been set.

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