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(generated from captions) They're not likely They're not likely to abscond. The case has been

adjourned until May. Staying in

PNG, Richard Marles is parliamentary secretary for PNG, Richard Marles is the

foreign affairs and foreign affairs and Pacific

island affairs and he's in PNG

for Australia Week where he's

been meeting with political

leaders as well as the business

community and Richard Marles

joins us now from our Port

Moresby bureau. Richard Marles, Moresby bureau. Richard

thank you for your time. At a

business speech to the Australia PNG

said Papua New Guinea is at a business council yesterday you

watershed moment in its history. What do you mean by

that? I think PNG is at a

watershed moment, both in political terms and economic

terms. We've really got confluence of a lot of things terms. We've really got the

happening right now. There's of

course been a very difficult

period that the country's gone

through. We do see I think a

generational change in terms of

people coming through the

political system. All of that comes to a head with the

elections which will be held

later this year but whilst all

of that's happening, PNG is

experiencing an economic boom. The leeching project in the southern highlands by some

estimates will see PNG's GDP

growth grow by 15% by virtue of

this one project alone. this one project alone. We've

had 9 years of economic growth

here in PNG, notwithstanding

the global economic crisis, so

on the one hand you've got this

great economic story, on the

other you've got lot going on

in the political sphere and got

generational change and all of this, I think, comes to a head

with the elections that are on

later this year. It really is a

very critical moment in the history of PNG and I think the

shape of this country for

decades to come will be shaped

by the events of this by the events of this year.

We'll talk a bit more about the

economy in a moment. We've just

seen a report showing seen a report showing the

arrest and charging of the political reaction to the

country's chief justice. This

seems to be yet another

indication of the ongoing

political confusion and tension

sparked by the whole leadership

tussle. How likely is it tussle. How likely is it that the turmoil will settle the turmoil will settle before

the elections mid year, the elections mid year, indeed

elections will be held how confident are you that the

elections will be held mid year? Let me deal with the

last question first because

it's a question that we've been

asking a lot over the last couple of days which is whether

or not the elections will

happen on time and certainly as

an observer of this place and

as a very close friend to PNG,

Australia is concerned to see Australia is

that the elections do happen on time, that they happen consistently with the

constitution which require the

elections to be held in a

certain timeframe, in June and

July of this year, but every

indication that we've received from Prime Minister Peter

O'Neill and indeed all the

political leaders here in PNG,

has been along the lines of the elections needing to elections needing to be

happening on time and we're

very encouraged by that. I

think in terms of the leadership tussle as you

described it, I think we do

have to cut PNG some is slack

heryism think we do need to

understand what this country

has gone through over the last

12 months. To have a huge

political figure such as political figure such as Sir Michael Somare in the job of

being Prime Minister, and then

having an illness which is not

anybody, his fault nor the fault of

anybody, but a situation which

saw him incapacitated for a

peer odof time there, was a

certain ambig usety for him to be the Prime Minister

throughout that time, it is

difficult for any country and

it is really the situation

which underpinned then lot of the political turmoil which

followed but if you look at

those political events, what

mattered in them, whilst

there's been lot of controversy

about them, what mattered was votes in the parliament, was the decisions of the Supreme

Court. What we didn't gratefully, is power being Court. What we didn't see,

determined at the point of a

gun and things could have been

very different and I actually

think if you look at the role

of the police, the role of the military, they actually,

despite a couple of flutters,

behave said very maturely and

life has gone on here in

largely unaffected by the

political events and so I think

in all of that there is something of an achievement and

Government is proceeding and provided there are elections on

time - and as I say, the

assurances are very much there

that the elections will be had

on time y think we can look at

the eventsed of the past 12

months and say PNG have managed

to deal with a pretty difficult

set of circumstances but set of circumstances but have

dealt with them in a way

dealt with them in a way which

hasn't led to violence and has

largely been done through

political processes. What if

the turmoil and question marks

and this all still floats are still there come voting day

through and things have not

been fully resolved by the time the election comes around? I

think in that question really

comes the conclusion that what comes the conclusion

we need to see is the elections

happening on time. We need to -

situation here is to have what will resolve the political

elections held on time and free

and fair elections which is by

and large what we have seen in

PNG since independence. One of

the great achievements of this

country here is that defiet all

this is a fundamentally the issues since independence,

democratic country where there

is freedom of expression and really it's that core value

that is going to see PNG

through this situation now and

I think if we can see the elections happening and, you know, there are questions about the preparation of those

elections but having spoken

with a number of

representatives from

Government, from the Electoral Commission over the last couple

of days y think it is fair to

say election preparations are as well placed in the as well placed in the lead up

to these elections as they were this time prior to the last elections. It's a very

encouraging and good sign.

Have you met with both main

players that centre of the leadership

leadership tussle, Prime

Minister Peter O'Neill and the

former PM Sir Michael Somare former PM Sir Michael Somare on

this viz isn't Sir Michael is not in the not in the country at the

moment as we understand we are

hoping to catch up with Sir

Michael tomorrow but we have

met with representatives from

the Somare camp f I can call the Somare camp f I can call it that. We did meet with Peter O'Neill today and met with a

number of other Government

Ministers. So we've been keen

to meet all the players in the

political scene here to get a

sense of how they've seen the events over the past few months

and also to get a sense of their view about whether elections are going to be held

on time and the need to hold

those elections on dispiem as I

say, what we - what the

consistent view we've had from everyone there needs to be elections held on time and that's the direction that's the direction the

country's going in and I think

if that can occur then that is

the event which will bring to a conclusion the political issues

we've seen here and allow a new

Government to be formed. Mr

Marles, on the economy you mentioned earlier has been

racing ahead, how do you

account for even rationalise

that economic growth, its

resource riches and yet this is

a country where it's estimated

40% of its people live below

the poverty line? I think

that's a really good question

and that really is I think the

great question that needs to be

answered in PNG and I think it's - for the next generation

of leaders in PNG that question

in a sense represents the challenge which faces them.

This is a resource-rich country

which has had fantastic

resource projects in the past.

Bougainville, the Ok Tedi

goldmine and copper mine. All

of these have been great

opportunities for PNG but as

you rightly say, when you you rightly say, when you look

all the social indicators, it

is reasonable to make the

proposition that despite those resource projects, that hasn't flowed through flowed through to the population at large. I think

the real challenge now is to

make sure that the LNG project,

which is the next which is the next great resources project coming resources project coming down

the line, is one which actually does does see the wealth that's

created by that flow through to

the community at large. I think there are some very positive

signs on the part of the

Government to really make this resource project different to

the ones in the past. the ones in the past. A

sovereign wealth fund has been

created and the legislation

enabling that has been passed

in the last few weeks. That's a

real and genuine attempt on the

part of the Government to see that the benefit that flows

from that project actually goes to nation-building and

providing benefit to the

population at large but that

really is the challenge of this

country and I think again when

you think about this country being at the cross-roads, there are all the political issues

which the election will resolve

but after that is really the

challenge of trying to make

this new resources boom one

which really does make a

difference to the difference to the average Papua New Guinean and from

Australia's point of view we've got to

got to do everything we can got to do everything we can as

close friends to support close friends to support that

but that is the great challenge

facing PNG over the next decade. Where has it failed in

the past that this has nout

flowed on to the Papua New

Guinean people, this boom, this

growth. Have the past loyal

leaders failed their people? I

think the thing to say is that

PNG is a young country. PNG is a young country. PNG gained its independence in 1975

and prior to that was obviously

under Australian administration

so I think if we're going to be

talk about a failure to the

people of PNG, everyone needs

to bear their responsibility to bear their responsibility in

that but there are lots of

issues you can point to for why the benefits from those

resource projects have not flowed through but I think

what's important is to actually

learn the lessons of that and that's why something like the

sovereign wealth fund is now

being looked at, so that you actually do have a legacy that

will come out of this which can

be used for the people. I think

it's also important to maintain

a sense of optimism. There has

been important gains made here

in PNG. We've mentioned before

that throughout that entire

period democracy is maintained.

This is country which very much

enjoys and cherishes the freedom of expression so there

is a long way to go in PNG and

no-one is going to try and gild

the Lily here and say there

aren't a lot of issues to be

addressed but it's also fair

enough to say there have been

some significant thee.s since

independence as well and I

think now is the opportunity,

through this through this new resources boom

too, make sure that things are done differently and that the

people do get the legacy

benefit associated with that project. Looking to the

future, in that speech future, in that speech you

delivered yesterday you delivered yesterday you said

PNG will unlikely meet most of

its millennium development

goals, these goals to lift

folks out of poverty. Given Australia this financial year

alone is providing almost half

a billion dollars in aid to

peefing and those goals are

part of the partnership, the

Australia-PNG partnership for development, what, if anything, can the Australian Government

do to try and help while not transgressing into the

sovereignty of another country

but ensuring some of the future

goals you just laid out,

outlined, will be achieved? I think that's a very important

consideration for Australia and

our relationship with PNG and I

think PNG would expect us to

thinking a lot about how we'd

deal with those issues and it

is right that one of the concerning teachers of the country - not just PNG I might

add, this exists through the

Pacific - that when the report

card comes down for the

millennium development goals millennium development goals in

2015, that report card is not

going to be particularly going to be particularly pretty

in relation to PNG or in relation to PNG or indeed

the Pacific and I think that the Pacific and I think that is

something that Australia needs

to look at. In terms of the specifics about what we do,

we've had a review two years

ago of our development

assistance program here in PNG.

There was some I think

legitimate criticism about the

program, that it was spread too

thin and wasn't focused enough

and in that sense we weren't

seeing real change as a result of the considerable money you

describe that we're devoting to

this country but we are trying

to change that and we have a

much more focused development

assistance program now,

focussing on areas that have

been agreed between both our selves and the PNG Government

in areas of health, of education, education, infrastructure, law

and justice and they really do

represent the key issues facing this country and we are now

seeing meaningful change. If

you look at education through

Australian aid we've received

school fees for primary school

students come chhave seen

dramatic increases. 10%

increases in enrolment in 12

months for kids in primary

school. That is a dramatic and

transformative change in transformative change in that

alone in terms of maintaining

roads, in terms of providing

medical supplies to medical supplies to hospitals,

we are now making real

differences and I think that

will flow through but these are

enormous challenges and enormous challenges and we

really do need to see that

governance forms an important

part of that and it's why we've

been keeping a close watch and

working very closely with the

PNG Government over the last

few months and why these next

elections are such an important

opportunity that PNG simply has to take. Richard to take. Richard Marles,

finally and briefly, as part of

Australia Week that you're

there for, I believe your final

funk is to play a game of -

final sphuntion to play a game

of Al. How long is it since

you've played footy? I last

pulled on football boots when I

was 14. I am very nervous about

putting on those football

boots. It seemed like a good

idea at the time but as

Saturday becomes closer and closer, my nightmares are

becoming more and more vivid of

some stocky Papua New Guinean making me roadkill in the

middle of a tackle so I middle of a tackle so I think the High Commission have the High Commission have been very wise to put this at the

end of the program so that I

can complete it before whatever

befalls me does. I'm sure befalls me does. I'm sure it will make for will make for fantastic spectator sports so Richard

Marles in Port Marles in Port Moresby, thank