18 May 2004

PNG cabinet may concede ground on Australia police issue

10:44 am on 18 May 2004

Papua New Guinea's cabinet ministers are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss plans to deploy 300 Australian police and public servants in PNG.

The so-called Enhanced Cooperation Programme would see 230 police officials, and about 70 public servants installed at crime hotspots around PNG over a five-year period, Australian Associated Press reports.

Politicians in PNG have bucked at the plan because Australia wants its police officers to be granted immunity from Papua New Guinea's law.

But ministers are this week reported to be considering some compromises on the issue, including setting up an oversight body to decide on a case-by-case basis whether immunity would apply.

Even if Cabinet agrees to any compromise, the PNG parliament will need to pass enabling legislation before a new joint treaty could be signed between Australia and PNG.

In that case, Australian police could be deployed by September.