16 Aug 2005

Australian Foreign Minister yet to settle on PNG trip to finalise new police aid programme

9:06 pm on 16 August 2005

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says he will announce next week whether he will travel to Papua New Guinea to resolve the issue of Australia's stalled policing program.

The PNG Government indicated on Friday that it expected Mr Downer to visit to discuss new ways of implementing Australia's law and order assistance.

This follows the collapse of Canberra's Enhanced Cooperation Programme last May.

That saw more than 100 Australian police pulled out of PNG after the country's Supreme Court ruled their agreed immunity from prosecution under PNG law was unconstitutional.

The Australian government has insisted such protections are needed if Australian police are to carry out their job of sharpening up the rundown PNG Constabulary.

Mr Downer would not say today whether he would travel to PNG, indicating an announcement next week.

He says his officials are having good discussions with PNG and he expects to have more to say in the next week or so.