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Keating should publicly explain himself over ACF letter unwarranted interference in PNG's Affairs

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Prime Minister Keating should move immediately to state categorically where he stands on the issue of Ok Tedi and in fact should explain his actions in conveying a letter from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to PNG Prime Minister, Mr Namaliu.

Federal Leader of the National Party and Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources, Tim Fischer said this today in Melbourne. Mr Fischer has previously visited Ok Tedi for inspections and briefings. The visit included inspection of the mine, environmental arrangements and community

liaison arrangements in the area.

"There is now a whiff of Whitlam about Paul Keating, particularly arising from his disastrous first overseas tour as Prime Minister.

"Firstly he dumped on our National Flag in Jakarta and now we learn he has helped KO Ok Tedi and place in jeopardy 3000 PNG jobs as well as some jobs in Far North Queensland.

"He has been very careless in conveying an ACF letter and raising the matter with PNG Prime Minister Namaliu without a proper brief or

acquainting himself with both sides of the complex story involved.

"Ok Tedi has pioneered a special arrangement with a series of local Clans and villages to ensure the minimum of dislocation and maximum social harmony in the area.

"This has allowed, for example, certain aspects of the mine and associated infrastructure to be done by specially created mini joint ventures with local people and with some considerable success.

"In addition, Ok Tedi has completed a three year Environment Impact Study and has carried out considerable environmental monitoring, not only on site at the Mine but also of the Fly River and the Torres Strait. Clearly this must be a continuing process.

"The Ok Tedi Mine has had to provide comprehensive assurances and meet stringent guide lines set by the PNG Government on all matters including environmental concerns before start up and on an on going basis.

"Keating's action could be construed as interference in PNG's internal affairs and it is entirely inappropriate, as Fred Chaney MP has said, for the Prime Minister to act as a courier for the ACF. Worse still, it seems the Prime Minister raised environmental concerns about Ok Tedi before handing the letter over and he must now clarify his exact position on the whole matter.

Mr Fischer said Paul Keating should explain why he is jeopardising the economy of another Nation as well as the economy of Far North Queensland which gains considerable business and jobs in servicing aspects of the Ok Tedi Mine.ENDS 10 June 1992