3 Jun 2004

Australia and PNG about to settle differences over immunity demand in aid package

8:28 pm on 3 June 2004

Australia and Papua New Guinea are today (friday) expected to announce they have reached a compromise on the Australian demand that its police personnel to be deployed there be given immunity.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and his PNG counterpart, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, will meet to try and complete a treaty deal covering the Enhanced Co-operation Programme.

Under the Programme 230 Australian Federal police and dozens of public officials are to be deployed to in a huge lift in Canberra's aid contribution to PNG.

But the plan has stalled over PNG's refusal to grant immunity, which Australia wanted to protect its personnel from malicious prosecutions.

Sir Rabbie said yesterday (thursday) the government remained committed to the ECP, but had problems with the immunity proposal.

These include the need to change the constitution and the creation of two separate classes of police doing the same work.

A PNG Government official however says the Ministers are expected to announce today they have resolved the stalemate over immunity.

Earlier this week Mr Downer said Canberra had moved a long way to meet the PNG Government's concerns.