Lepani warns Australian politicians on asylum issue

National, Normal

The National, Thursday July 25th, 2013

 PAPUA New Guinea’s top diplomat to Australia has warned Australian politicians not to “impugn” PNG leaders over the asylum seeker issue. 

High Commissioner Charles Lepani said in a statement yesterday that PNG leaders should not be criticised when they were trying to help Australia deal with the problem.

“The PNG High Commissioner 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,” he said.

It is understood the criticism related to Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott’s suggestion that Australian aid would be wasted under new rules giving PNG a greater say in spending priorities.

“Australian aid should never be a free gift to a foreign government,” Abbot said.

“Our aid should be spent on an accountable basis, on a careful prudent basis. It has got to go to exactly the right recipients.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the coalition’s argument was with Australian Prime Minister Kevin 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.