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Foreign Minister says PNG aid program offers help, not a takeover.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Thursday 18 September 2003

Foreign Minister says PNG aid program offers help, not a takeover

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Though it's drawn claims of an Australian assault on Papua New Guinea's sovereignty, Canberra is continuing to press its new hard-line approach to aid to Port Moresby. 

 

And now, on the back of intervention in the Solomon Islands, Australia also wants Papua New Guinea to accept an Australian police presence to tackle law and order and corruption. 

 

The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer outlined the plan in talks in Port Moresby yesterday, where he's seeking better results from the $350-million a year Australian aid budget for PNG. 

 

Our Papua New Guinea Correspondent, Shane McLeod reports.  

 

SHANE MCLEOD: As the war of words between Australia and Papua New Guinea heated up, Alexander Downer found himself "uninvited" to talk about the future of Australia's aid program in PNG. 

 

This week the invitation was resuscitated, and Mr Downer duly arrived. 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Whatever's been said in the last few weeks, our attitude is we'll let bygones be bygones, we want to get good outcomes and so far my talks have been very constructive and we seem to be heading in the right direction. 

 

SHANE MCLEOD: The right direction appears to be a lot more that many officials on both sides of the Torres Strait could ever have contemplated a few months ago. 

 

Australia wants PNG to agree to allow Australian police to take up positions within the local force, to boost its capacity to fight crime and corruption. It wants to institute flying squads of accountants and auditors, to try to get on top of PNG's myriad of financial woes, and most importantly, it wants to secure PNG's agreement now, with the details to be finalised by the end of the year. 

 

Mr Downer says Australia is offering help, not a takeover. 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: We can bring people with certain technical expertise, born out of the government systems of Australia, who might be able to assist very substantially with technical implementation in areas like audit control and financial management systems, that kind of thing. 

 

It's not a question of not trusting people, it's just a question of Papua New Guinea making the best of the resources that are available to it and this is a country which, if I may say so as the Australian Foreign Minister, is very lucky to have a resource available to it which helps it and that is Australia. 

 

SHANE MCLEOD: Talks yesterday will continue today to try to secure PNG's agreement. 

 

Mr Downer wouldn't say whether some aid may be withdrawn if PNG doesn't agree. 

 

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I don't think now is a good time to start veering off into another direction and getting into a renewed bout of robust rhetoric. 

 

SHANE MCLEOD: Yet there are other hurdles to be overcome, such as selling the concept of co-operative intervention to a nation that this week celebrated 28 years of its independence, and the man who led PNG down that path, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who's keeping a measured distance from the aid discussions. 

 

In Port Moresby, Shane McLeod reporting for AM .