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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19904

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (3:47 PM) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER —Does the minister claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr DOWNER —I do.

The SPEAKER —Please proceed.

Mr DOWNER —In the National newspaper today—honourable members may not be familiar with the National; it is a Port Moresby newspaper—there is a headline on the front page that reads `Downer fails to bar Sir Rabbie'. The text reads:

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday tried unsuccessfully to cancel a public speech by his PNG counterpart Sir Rabbie Namaliu in Port Moresby.

It goes on to say that I requested PNG's special envoy to Canberra to ask for the cancellation of the speech by Sir Rabbie to the PNG Media Council and the Institute of National Affairs at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. As a matter of fact, I did not know that Sir Rabbie was going to make a speech yesterday, let alone make any request to anyone to cancel a speech. I would not do such a thing to the foreign minister of another country. But it gets curiouser and curiouser. The National goes on to say that, during my meeting with the chief secretary of Papua New Guinea yesterday, I asked about my security in the event that I were to call on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare. Of course, I did not say anything of the sort. I think the National needs to improve its overall level of professionalism.

The SPEAKER —The minister has indicated where he has been misrepresented.