Govt to review agreement on naval base: Pruaitch


DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) was not consulted when Australia and PNG signed an agreement for a joint initiative at Lombrum Naval Base last year, Minister Patrick Pruaitch claims.
“When DFAIT is not involved, it means that PNG’s national interest is not represented,” he said.
Pruaitch was responding to a series of questions raised in Parliament yesterday by Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin about PNG’s sovereignty and Australia’s interest in Manus.
He said local construction companies were being denied opportunities to participate in the construction of Lombrum Defence Naval Training College because they did not have Australian tax numbers and company registrations.
“Australia promised a huge shopping list of development packages, including all-weather roads, schools and hospitals and that remains undelivered to date,” Pruaitch said.
He said PNG’s sovereignty and interest remained paramount in the conduct of its relationship with all countries, including Australia.
“Unfortunately, the last government actually mishandled the MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the Australian and our Defence Force,” Pruaitch said.
He assured Benjamin that he would lead a review on the MoU and ensure that Manus people and PNG’s interests were involved.
But former PNG Defence secretary Trevor Meauri said that DFAIT was consulted and was fully aware of the MOU.
“In 2018, I advised DFAIT officials that the MoU was non-binding and cleared for signing,” Meauri said.
“DFAIT did not have any position on the MoU, not because they have too, but because the real input from DFAIT was going to come during discussion on the implementation agreement.”