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Military assistance to PNG becomes more essential



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PETER WHITE M.P.Federal Member for McPhersonSHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE___________MEDIA RELEASED17/89COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH iV Mlarch iSJbiiMILITARY ASSISTANCE TO PNG BECOMES MORE ESSENTIALIt has taken six days for the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government to move 90 soldiers from Wewak to Kieta on the troubled island of Bougainville. Thirty soldiers are still to be moved. It shows again the necessity for Australia to offer increased military assistance to PNG to ensure stability in a country which is Australia's closest neighbour and with whom we have had a long and close relationship.It is PNG's interests to ask for assistance and it is in Australia's interests to give it. Next week's visit to Australia by the Prime Minister of PNG, Mr Namaliu, gives both countries the opportunity to finalise an increased defence assistance programme, over and above the $24 million budgeted for in 1988-89.The problems in moving the troops from Wewak to Bougainville arise from the distance, the lack of logistic support, the lack of transport aircraft and a lack of readily available troops any closer to the disturbed area. These problems are not going to disappear, and there may be other disturbances in other areas.Bougainville lies some 1300 kilometres from Wewak, much of it over water. Logistic support for the deployment of troops is limited and the transport is provided by old DC3 aircraft (one of which broke down) which had to break the journey into short stages. There were troops in Port Moresby closer to Bougainville, but they were on stand by in case of problems in Port Moresby.In recent years, the Hawke Government has been keen to dispense aid all over the world, some of it in far-away countries of little direct relevance to Australia. It is time the Hawke Government got its priorities straight and concentrated on our own region of interest. The isolationism which dominates Australia's current defence thinking must end. A stable PNG is essential to Australia's security and an increased military assistance programme will play an important part in achieving that stability.• For further information contact Peter White, Shadow Minister for Defence, (075) 324 327.