The National, Friday 10th May 2013
By MALUM NALU
MORE Australian police force personnel could be sent to Papua New Guinea, visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters in Port Moresby yesterday.
Gillard, who is making her first visit here as prime minister, arrived in Port Moresby yesterday afternoon for a three-day visit.
Both governments see Gillard’s visit as a chance to broaden the relationship in trade, investment, education and defence beyond the traditional focus on aid.
Asked if there were plans to resurrect the Enhanced Cooperation Programme (ECP), which was shelved in 2005 after a court ruling, Gillard said: “One of the things that I will be talking with Prime Minister (Peter) O’Neill is about police cooperation.
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“One of our roles in PNG is to see a strengthening of police,” Gillard said.
The ECP was an initiative of the former Howard government to assist PNG tackle lawlessness and economic management via the strategic deployment of Australian personnel in key state agencies.
However, the programme, costing A$800 million at the time, was scuttled after a 2005 PNG Supreme Court ruling that the immunity given to the Australian bureaucrats was unconstitutional.
“We have had the police cooperation (ECP) in the past that you referred to,” Gillard said.
“We look forward to enhanced cooperation being renewed.
“It’s certainly an item on our agenda.”
Asked about the controversial visa restrictions imposed on ordinary Papua New Guineans wanting to travel to Australia, Gillard said: “Yes, we do want to see people able to travel and not face unnecessary obstacles.
“We do have an online visa arrangement in PNG and we are working towards arrangements that are less burdensome in terms of paperwork for people to engage in multiple entries into Australia.
“We do not have a visa or entry facility despite the long-term bonds between the two countries.”
Asked if aid to PNG would be reduced in the light of liquefied natural gas exports coming online next year, Gillard said: “This is our second biggest aid programme.
“Our biggest aid programme is in Indonesia.
“So it’s a substantial investment for Australia in areas like health, education, and infrastructure.
“When we look at modern PNG, even though it is growing and changing, there is still work to do to realise the millennium development goals and give the people of PNG opportunities through areas such as education.
“I think Australian aid will be required for quite some time to come.
“When we look at the indicators, there is much work to do in millennium development goals but PNG is growing in its capacity to do that work.
“I think as PNG becomes stronger and more prosperous, it will have more of its resources to devote to the tasks of lifting the people up.
“And of course, that is appropriate.”
Gillard said her visit would write the next chapter in the bilateral relationship between Australia and PNG.
While in Port Moresby, Gillard will be holding talks with O’Neill and senior cabinet ministers, visit AusAID projects at Marianville High School, Gerehu market and visit the LNG plant.
She paid a courtesy call on Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio after her arrival and was the guest of honour at a state dinner hosted by O’Neill last night.