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PNG slaps Abbott over reaction to boatpeople deal

BEN PACKHAM | The Australian

PAPUA NEW GUINEA HAS DELIVERED an apparent diplomatic slap to Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott, warning Australian politicians not to "impugn" its leaders over the PNG solution.

In a statement sent to the media today, Charles Lepani, PNG High Commissioner, said PNG leaders should not be criticised when they were trying to help Australia deal with its asylum-seeker problem.

“The High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea to Australia today warned Australian politicians to observe international protocols and courtesies when discussing relations with other friendly sovereign nations and not impugn the dignity of our leaders who are attempting to assist Australia in this very complex regional and international issue of asylum-seekers,” Mr Lepani said.

It's understood the criticism relates to Mr Abbott's suggestion yesterday that Australian aid would be wasted under new rules giving PNG a greater say in spending priorities.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Coalition's argument was with Mr Rudd, not Papua New Guinea.

“I can understand PNG may feel uncomfortable about Kevin Rudd dragging them into the middle of a deeply contentious domestic political debate,” she told The Australian.

“However our concerns are with Kevin Rudd, who failed to mention any change to Australia's $500 million PNG aid program (when he made the PNG solution announcement) last Friday.

“Nor is there any mention of the change in the agreement.”

Ms Bishop said Mr Rudd must reveal the full details of his agreement with PNG, including new oversight arrangements for foreign aid, the full list of infrastructure projects to be funded, and details of additional aid funding.

Comments

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Peter Kranz

Peter O'Neill has spoken to the ABC late yesterday complaining about the way PNG has been portrayed in the Australian media and by the Australian opposition.

He took particular exception to the claim by Abbott and Hockey that PNG had "been given a blank cheque" to spend aid money as it wishes.

He pointed out that AusAID funds are directed to development priorities set by PNG and have been for some time - as is the case for any other AusAID recipient country - and are subject to strict governance rules.

If you've had any experience of the tough governance controls required by AusAID for their projects you will realise that talk of "blank cheques" is complete nonsense.

As much as I dislike Rudd's PNG proposal, the Australian opposition are talking complete nonsense here.

And this morning Tony Burke is due in Manus to investigate claims of abuse at the detention centre.

At least this whole business has raised the profile and awareness of PNG amongst Australians who probably in the past couldn't even point to PNG on a map.

Colin Huggins

Martyn and Warwick. I live in a street that has Indian, Pakistani and Vietnamese families who have settled here - the Vietnamese were boat people, they fled in boats after Saigon fell. They were Catholics, they were tortured but got out from a communist regime.

They have all become Aussies - their kids have done well - all participate in Australian sports and culture. They are all lovely people.

This boat mob are a different "kettle of fish" - so if Manus scares them off - good.

If these boat people will adapt to PNG living and abiding by the laws of PNG, they, if they have talents in certain spheres - agriculture, building, medical etc. they may be an asset.

If they are found out to be economic refugees - then "hasta la vista Manus' on a plane and back to where you came from.

Australia has had enough, seems Indonesia also, other countries like the PRC have closed doors.

Just maybe Rudd and O'Neill have bit the bullet, we are paying - the boats may cease.

I think Rudd as done a good deal, don't expect a change if Abbott co, get in.

I am sure President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia has had enough also.

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