31 Mar 2005

Australia's Foreign Minister firm on Somare treatment

11:50 am on 31 March 2005

Australia is refusing to back down in a widening row with Papua New Guinea over alleged disrespectful treatment of the PNG Prime Minister in Brisbane.

Sir Michael Somare took offence when asked to remove his shoes during security screening at Brisbane Airport while he was in transit home from New Zealand.

PNG summoned the Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Mike Potts, over the matter and is demanding an apology from the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.

A protest march has been called in Port Moresby today, and a top PNG judge, Justice Mark Sevua, says such treatment of the Prime Minister should be condemned.

But this is rejected by a spokesman for the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.

The spokesman, Chris Kenny, says airport screening is routine for everybody and people are treated with respect and courtesy and noone is subjected to an indignity.