13 Apr 2005

Sir Michael bypasses Australia en route to New Caledonia

1:23 pm on 13 April 2005

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister will bypass Brisbane when he flies to New Caledonia tomorrow, but PNG is unlikely to take further steps that would escalate its row with Australia.

PNG last week suspended part of the mulit million dollar Enhanced Co-operation Programme funded by Canberra following what Port Moresby views as an insult against Sir Michael Somare two weeks ago.

Sir Michael was subjected to a lengthy security check at Brisbane Airport on his way home to PNG from New Zealand.

Australia's refused to apologise.

Now Sir Michael's spokesperson, Betha Somare, says he'll take a charter flight to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu en route to Noumea, rather than go through Brisbane as he'd planned.

She says she cannot say when Sir Michael will be willing to transit Brisbane again.

But Betha Somare, who's Sir Michael's daughter, says further steps of displeasure are unlikely.

"No, I think we have to move on. I think you know we're a close country to Australia, we've had long historical relations and we've raised our concerns over this recent event and Australia has responded and we're moving on from there."

Betha Somare.

Meanwhile, a protest march is to take place in Lae on Friday, over the row.

This follows protests in Port Moresby last week.

The Lae protest organiser, Paul Isikie, told The National newspaper that it would be peaceful and monitored by police.

He said it would petition the Australian Consul-General in Lae, Phil Franklin, over the lack of an apology, pointing out that Papua New Guineans are no longer what he called Australia's "small boys".