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PNG's Prime Minister has survived an attempt to depose him in parliament, amid calls for his resignation -

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MARK COLVIN: Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister survived an attempt to depose him in parliament, amid calls for his resignation from outside it.

MPs backed Peter O'Neill despite student protests and industrial action in protest at his refusal to comply with an arrest warrant.

It means Mr O'Neill is safe from other challenges until a general election next year, but it might not protect him from more civil disobedience and protests.

PNG correspondent Eric Tlozek reports from Port Moresby.


ERIC TLOZEK: Papua New Guinea's opposition didn't have the numbers, but they had demanded a debate.


The opposition fought for months to force a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. But it was doomed from the outset. After only a few speakers, the government forced a vote, and 85 of the 111 MPs stuck by the PM.


The opposition had argued for Peter O'Neill to stand down over his management of the economy and the budget and because he refuses to comply with a warrant for his arrest for two charges of official corruption.

Deputy opposition leader, Sam Basil.

SAM BASIL: In other countries politicians resign because they accept a bottle of wine or misuse travel privileges. O'Neill persists despite massive allegations.

ERIC TLOZEK: The vote came as professional groups took up the cause of student protesters and called for Mr O'Neill to resign.

Pilots have been calling in sick in protest at Mr O'Neill's handling of the corruption allegations and doctors are now threatening to stop work.

Hundreds of people gathered outside parliament in the hope of watching proceedings. They were divided about how MPs should vote.

PNG PROTESTOR 1: They must cross the floor to change the Prime Minister. He need to answer a lot of questions.

PNG PROTESTOR 2: I still support the current government because the current government is doing something. There is development taking place, and we can see something is happening.

ERIC TLOZEK: Papua New Guineans have shown huge interest in the political turmoil and closely followed the allegations against the Prime Minister.

PNG's small parliamentary opposition has almost doubled in number thanks to vote, going from 11 to 21 MPs, but opposition leader, Don Polio, conceded he'd failed to convince the majority, and promised to focus on issues of corruption and accountability for the remainder of the parliamentary term.

DON POLIO: The focus is fighting corruption in Papua New Guinea. The focus of this team is making sure that there's a strong compliance to the rule of law and upholding of justice.

ERIC TLOZEK: Most MPs may have felt secure in staying with government, but some are worried there could be further unrest because Mr O'Neill has not stepped down.

Former government MP Ken Fairweather voted against the Prime Minister but says he now wants people to stop their protests because they're hurting the economy.

KEN FAIRWEATHER: We've had a constitutional vote of no confidence, which was the right thing to do.

But now we need to get back to work. The pilots need to go back to work, the doctors need to stop talking about going strike. And we don't need this sort of stuff right now, we're in enough trouble.

ERIC TLOZEK: Even if the opposition had won the vote, they wouldn't have been in government for very long. PNG is holding a general election in nine months time.

From Port Moresby, this Eric Tlozek reporting for PM.