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Group of Australians attacked whilst trekking -

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MARK COLVIN: A group of Australian trekkers who survived a brutal attack while walking the Black Cat Track in PNG's (Papua New Guinea) Morobe Province has escaped to Port Moresby. The attackers killed two porters and injured several of the Australian trekkers when men wielding machetes and spears confronted them on the track.

PNG correspondent Liam Fox has been waiting for the group to arrive at the airport; he joins me now on the line. What evidence have you seen that this group of trekkers had suffered such a brutal attack?

LIAM FOX: Well, when they were led out of the domestic terminal at the Port Moresby airport by diplomats, a couple of the guys had large bandages on their heads. The rest looked a little bit battered and bruised, but all up they were all walking unassisted, had all of their limbs attached.

It really appears that the brunt of the attack was borne by the local porters. As you said, two of them were killed and several other porters sustained very serious injuries and they've had to be hospitalised in Lae, the provincial capital of Morobe Province.

MARK COLVIN: Do you know what happened?

LIAM FOX: It appears that the motive was robbery. After the attack, all of the trekkers' and porters' gear was stolen by the attackers. From what we know, they had just set up camp yesterday afternoon. The weather was wet, so most people were huddled in their tents, and then the attack occurred at around dusk. Everyone was caught by surprise.

As I said, it appears the porters have borne the brunt of the attack, perhaps because they were protecting the trekkers, but they've borne the brunt of it.

After the attack, in which the Australians and one New Zealander sustained what was described as "non-life-threatening injuries", they were able to walk back to the town of Wau, where they stayed overnight after receiving medical treatment. As I said, those porters have been hospitalised in Lae.

MARK COLVIN: Do you know that area at all Liam? Is it particularly wild?

LIAM FOX: Look, I don't think it's any wilder than any other regional, remote areas of Papua New Guinea. It's not in the highlands, which is considered to be the wildest part of Papua New Guinea, but it is out there in terms of remote area. Like many of these popular treks, it's very rugged, mountainous terrain, not an easy place to get in and out of when you're attacked in this way, that's for sure.

MARK COLVIN: So obviously there's going to be an effect on the tourism industry, you'd think?

LIAM FOX: Yes, well when we go back to 2009, when there was the plane crash on the Kokoda Track and 13 people died - nine of them were Australian - there was an immediate slump in the number of tourists who were coming to the Kokoda Track. Before that, several thousand people had been coming a year; that dropped right off for the next couple of years.

Unfortunately, it looks like that will be the case again here. PNG is not a cheap place to come to. You can go to Bali for a week for a fraction of the price that it comes here, so people who'd be weighing up whether to spend the money to come to PNG, you could understand if they suddenly went, no, we're not going to do that.

Indeed, Mark Hitchcock from the company that the trekkers were with, PNG Trekking Adventures, he's certainly worried that it will put a dent in PNG's reputation as a destination for tourists.

MARK HITCHCOCK: We're a local trekking company based here in Port Moresby. Myself and my wife have been in the country 23 years. We're very experienced with the conditions and the nature of the country. We have been operating our trekking company for over 10 years, and we have never had an experience like this at all. We're deeply shocked and we fell for both the trekkers and the porters.

MARK COLVIN: Mark Hitchcock, from the tour operator PNG Trekking Adventures, and our reporter there was Liam Fox.