19 Jul 2005

PNG threatens to find other aid donors if Australia continues push for constitutional change.

5:13 pm on 19 July 2005

The Australian government has stressed that its aid to Papua New Guinea is aimed at helping it cope with its development challenges.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's office says PNG remains a strong partner both on a country-to-country and on a regional basis.

This comes after the PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare told the Sydney Morning Herald his country should sever what he calls the umbilical cord with Australia and pursue close relations with other countries.

Sir Michael comments follow the collapse of the Enhanced Cooperation Programme under which Australia was providing millions to help restore law and order, and other services, to PNG.

Both countries have been trying to have the ECP re-started after a court ruling that Australian police did not have immunity.

Sir Michael says if Australia continues to push for changes to the PNG constitution to ensure the immunity then PNG will go it alone.

And the PNG Prime Minister says Australia should lower its trade barriers and ease the restrictions on PNG workers in Australia if it wanted to help the country.

Mr Downer's office says Australia's aid is aimed at helping PNG address serious development challenges and achieve sustained economic growth.