PM: This is not a new deal

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday July 24th, 2013


THE refugee resettlement deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea has been in the pipeline for a number of years and is not a new idea, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says.

O’Neill said there was nothing wrong with it being discussed with the Australian Government before going through the PNG parliament.

“This is something that governments do on a day-to-day basis,” he told reporters on Monday after arriving from Brisbane, where he signed the agreement with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“After the agreement has been done, we take it to parliament, and parliament can debate on it, not the other way around,” he said.

“I know my colleagues (opposition) are a little bit inexperienced so they’re saying that parliament should have been informed first.

“Let me remind the people of Papua New Guinea that this is not a new arrangement.

“This is an arrangement that was made by the John Howard government and the then Somare government in around 2006.

“It was stopped by the Gillard government, restarted by the Gillard government, and now extended further by the Rudd government, so it is not a new concept that is being introduced to PNG.

“Last Wednesday, the cabinet of our country agreed on a new arrangement that was being sought by the Australian government.

“We agreed to our very basic human principles of humanitarian grounds, and that it is becoming a regional problem and a regional issue when we have got refugees that we need to protect.

“We ourselves have got illegal immigrants that we need to process, and of course the rest of the smaller Pacific Island countries need our help, to establish a regional processing centre.

“Of course, we took advantage of the issues that are before us, and negotiated these outcomes with the Australian government.

“I think it is very good for the country that we are showing some compassion, some humanitarian sympathy to the suffering that many of these genuine refugees are facing.”

He said PNG was a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention and had an obligation to refugees coming into the region.