5 Mar 2008

PNG opposition wants governance on agenda in talks with Australia

5:00 pm on 5 March 2008

The Papua New Guinea opposition leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, wants governance and accountability issues on the table when the leaders of Australia and PNG meet in Port Moresby this week.

Mt Rudd arrives in PNG tomorrow for fence-mending talks with Sir Michael Somare and other dignitaries.

The talks are expected to cover climate change initiatives, the Kokoda Track and the viability of a seasonal migrant workers scheme in Australia.

But Sir Mekere says they must tackle tougher topics and the considerable aid from Australia needs to be directed at combatting corruption.

He says this would involve sending in officials to work in in-line positions in government agencies, such as existed several years ago under the Enhanced Co-operation Programme.

"I want to see fewer consultants standing outside and looking in. I want to see some Australians in the line positions in the public service. So that we can together provide the support we need to rebuild our institutions."

Sir Mekere Morauta

Meanwhile, the police minister says he would like to see Australian police redeployed in the country to tackle law and order issues, but on PNG's terms.

The Internal Security Minister, Sani Rambi, said he supported a new influx of Australian police under a revamped ECP police initiative between the two countries.

PNG's police chief also says an Australia-PNG policing scheme needs to be on the agenda in the talks tomorrow.

Australian police officers began deploying in PNG under the ECP in late 2003 but about 150 officers were withdrawn in 2005 after PNG's Supreme Court ruled their legal immunities conflicted with PNG's constitution.

The failed plan to boost PNG's police force and tackle police corruption was one of several issues to cause problems between the two countries during the former Australian prime minister John Howard's time in office.