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Tuesday, 10 October 2006
Page: 11

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on the implications of reports that the fugitive Julian Moti may have travelled from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for his question and for his interest. We have received reports today that the fugitive Julian Moti arrived in the Solomon Islands from Papua New Guinea early today. He is currently being held in a police station in the Solomon Islands in relation to immigration offences.

Mr Moti is an Australian citizen, and the Solomon Islands Prime Minister wants to appoint this Australian as the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands. I make the point that Mr Moti is facing child sex charges here in Australia. That is a very serious allegation, and we would expect Mr Moti to be sent back to Australia to face those charges. We feel very strongly about this, and I am sure that all members of the House would agree with me. This is a very serious matter.

The circumstances of Mr Moti’s flight from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands are also worrying. A spokesman for the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, has confirmed that a Papua New Guinea military plane was used to transfer Mr Moti, who was wanted by authorities in Papua New Guinea. So, on the face of it, this action was in complete contradiction to Papua New Guinea law. He had no passport and he had been apprehended and taken before a Papua New Guinea court, and he was expected to appear before a Papua New Guinea court.

This whole situation goes to the very heart of what this government has argued for a long time: there are serious problems with governance in some parts of the Pacific and there are serious problems with the upholding of the rule of law in some parts of the Pacific. The taxpayers of this country are spending over $300 million a year to help the people of Papua New Guinea. We have spent around $800 million of taxpayers’ money on the RAMSI initiative to help the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands, and the people of those countries, as well as our own taxpayers, deserve to see higher and improving standards of governance in those countries. That is a very important requirement that this government lays down in its relations with these countries.

We will investigate further the circumstances of Mr Moti’s flight from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands. I understand that when Mr Moti landed in the Solomon Islands, the ordinary people of the town he landed in apprehended him and took him to the police. So the ordinary people of the Solomon Islands know what is right and what is wrong. These are good and decent people in the Solomon Islands, and they deserve a good and decent government.

We regard the charges that Mr Moti faces as very serious charges. It is important for the work of Australia that politicians in our region behave responsibly, that they respect the processes and their own legal systems, and that they do the right thing by the people of their country. This is a matter for law enforcement authorities and the courts. This is not a matter for politicians.