2 Jun 2004

Alexander Downer says Australia has moved to ease PNG concerns over deployment

5:04 pm on 2 June 2004

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Canberra has moved a considerable way to ease Papua New Guinean concerns about the proposed deployment of Australian police there.

Australia and PNG announced last December that 230 police and dozens of officials would be sent to PNG in a multi million dollar Enhanced Cooperation Program aid package.

The Australian officials and police are to work alongside their PNG counterparts to address law and order problems and to improve economic and financial management.

But talks on the deployment have stalled over PNG's refusal to grant legal immunity to Australian Federal Police officers.

Mr Downer says that officials have been negotiating appropriate legal arrangements for the personnel, including contingencies for the unlikely event that they would ever need to face trial on criminal charges.

He says Australia has a revised text for a treaty to cover the deployment and this will be discussed further on Friday with Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu and the PNG cabinet.