5 Jul 2005

PNG tightlipped about lack of progress in ECP negotiations

1:48 pm on 5 July 2005

The Papua New Guinea government is refusing to comment on the apparent deadlock with Australia over the collapsed multi-million dollar Enhanced Cooperation Programme.

The aid programme was thrown into doubt in May when the Supreme Court ruled that immunity provisions for Australian police were unconstitutional.

160 Australian police have left and top-level talks have been held in both Australia and PNG to revive the ECP.

No progress has been reported and a University of Papua New Guinea political science professor, Allan Patience, now says the idea of pulling out of PNG is gaining traction in Australia.

"There's a growing feeling in Australia in right wing circles that aid money to Papua New Guinea from Australia has been wasted, squandered even, that aid is not working, than even an ECP won't work, so the best thing is to pull out altogether and simply use the money to reinforce some security installations along the north coast."

Professor Patience says he believes time is running out for Australian officials working in government departments in PNG.

He says its constitutionally impossible for the PNG government to agree to the immunity provision.