IT IS BEING REPORTED IN Australia that Treasurer Joe Hockey said he provided "no specific commitment" to Papua New Guinea counterpart Don Polye at a recent meeting on future levels of Australian aid.
Earlier, according to PNG’s The National newspaper, Mr Hockey had told Mr Polye there would be “no changes” to arrangements agreed between former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.
The recently defeated Labor government had promised a $420 million boost on top of Australia's annual $500 million aid budget to PNG.
The Coalition attacked the deal at the time, accusing Mr Rudd of handing “total control” of the aid budget to PNG in exchange for a deal under which asylum seekers would be sent to Manus Island.
Perhaps the first signs are appearing that the deal will not be honoured – or at least not in full.
It is significant that Mr Hockey now denies that a specific aid commitment was made. A back flip could be imminent.
Recent revelations on the ABC’s Four Corners program of the extent of official corruption in PNG will also have served to concentrate the new Australian government’s mind on aid transfers to its former colony.