6 Aug 2005

Australian civil servants will stay on in PNG, suggests foreign minister

8:16 am on 6 August 2005

Papua New Guinea's foreign minister says Australia has suggested it will keep on its civil servants as advisers in PNG government departments.

Sir Rabbie Namaliu says Canberra had indicated it would leave in place non-policing officials of the Enhanced Cooperation Programme, despite understandings they would leave after the mission was suspended in May.

Australian officials say a decision on whether the 43 officials should stay could come from Canberra as early as next week.

About 160 Australian police were pulled out of Port Moresby and Bougainville in May after PNG's Supreme Court ruled their agreed protections from prosecution were invalid under the constitution.

Sir Rabbie Namaliu said both sides had agreed they wanted the programme to stay but reiterated his government was opposed to amending the constitution to resolve the issue.