3 Aug 2005

PNG academic says ECP effectively dead

7:42 pm on 3 August 2005

The head of political science at the University of Papua New Guinea says the multi-million dollar Enhanced Cooperation Programme between PNG and Australia is effectively dead amid a continuing stalemate between the countries over the aid plan.

The ECP was derailed in May by a PNG Supreme Court ruling that the immunity from prosecution granted to Australians working in PNG under the programme is unconstitutional.

Since then officials have tried to find a way to grant the immunity that continues to be demanded by Australia if the programme is to be revived.

Professor Allan Patience, who holds academic positions at both UPNG and in Melbourne, says no solution has been found and the ECP is over.

"I think it's true to say that every possible track has been explored and come to a dead end. That's why the situation now has come to a stand-off and it's very interesting to see that the major exponents or advocates of the ECP here in PNG have gone very very silent now. It's dead in the water."

Professor Patience says many Papua New Guineans would like a return to the stability such a programme offers, but those in government have different ideas.

He says that for its part, Australia is deeply embarrassed by the failure of the ECP.