23 Mar 2006

PNG minister warns of anti-Australian sentiment

1:38 pm on 23 March 2006

A senior Papua New Guinea minister has warned of rising anti-Australian feeling in his country, saying its aid program could be counter-productive.

PNG's finance minister, Bart Philemon, used an address to the National Press Club in Australia to spell out political and economic developments in his country.

Mr Philemon said while it was important that the two countries had a strong relationship, there was a deep-seated urge in PNG to prove itself independent of Australia, which has provided billions of dollars in aid over the past three decades.

He says how Australia goes about providing this assistance is tricky.

Mr Philemon says PNG is a proudly sovereign state and it is supposed to be responsible for finding its own way forward.

The minister says given some aspects of the relationship and history, if not handled sensitively - for example, if Australia is overly intrusive - Australia's intervention could well be counter productive.

He says there are some people in PNG who take the view that if Australia is insisting that they do something, then in order to demonstrate independence, PNG should do the opposite.

Mr Philemon says it should be of concern to Australia that the view has a level of popular support.