17 Mar 2004

PNG says partial agreement reached with Australia over immunity demand

6:19 am on 17 March 2004

Papua New Guinea's Foreign Minister says PNG and Australia have reached some agreement over how offences by Australian police personnel deployed to PNG would be handled.

Sir Rabbie and the PNG Police Minister, Bire Kimisopa, earlier this week met with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in Sydney to try and rescue the planned deployment.

It was in danger of being scuttled amid growing PNG opposition to Australia's initial demand that its personnel be tried in Australia rather than PNG for any alleged crimes.

Sir Rabbie says they are now considering other options including the status of forces agreement which applies to the military.

And he says progress has been made on an earlier PNG suggestion that both countries share jurisdiction.

"A nd I think we have come some way to agree for instance that when an offence is committed then it would be possible to have a joint investigation, to have a joint apprehension. It's getting to this question of where you then have the offence tried, in our jurisdiction or the Australian jurisdiction. Those are the sort of areas they would have to look at."

Meanwhile, the chief ombudsman, Ila Geno, says any Australian deployment must be approved by parliament.

And he says to comply with the constitution, the Prime Minister has to reconvene the house, which he adjourned until June to avoid any possible vote of no confidence .

Any issues, such as the deployment of Australian public servants or any other national issues, would have to be constantly debated in the parliament.

Ila Geno