16 May 2005

Australian police to leave PNG on Tuesday

2:00 pm on 16 May 2005

161 Australian police operating in Papua New Guinea under a multi-million dollar aid package are to be pulled out tomorrow and flow back to Australia.

This follows a ruling by the PNG Supreme Court on Friday that immunity from prosecution granted to Australians serving under the Enhanced Cooperation Programme is inconsistent with the PNG Constitution.

Australia says immunity is needed for the work to go ahead.

A spokeswoman for the the Assisting Australian Police operating in PNG says their work has been suspended temporarily, pending negotiations between Australia and PNG.

She says the police will be leaving for Australia tomorrow.

She would not say how the evacuation will be achieved, or offer any other comment on what the Australian police say is "a foreign affairs issue now".

19 of the 161 police pulling out had been working on the island of Bougainville, helping their counterparts there provide security ahead of the elections for an autonomous government beginning later this week.