Article Categories: Portfolio Media Releases, Foreign Affairs
Kevin Rudd’s statement that he alone is going to usher in a “new age of cooperation” between Papua New Guinea and Australia raises more questions than it answers.
The Howard Government provided record financial aid to PNG, budgeted for $355 million in 2007-08, and introduced the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) to improve governance, reduce corruption and to enhance services for PNG in the areas of education, health, HIV/AIDS, infrastructure, law and justice and rural development.
As Australia and PNG are two separate sovereign countries issues will arise from time to time that cause disagreements.
Any differences that had previously existed between the two countries were over genuine issues, including the escape of the former Solomon Islands Attorney-General, Julian Moti, via PNG, and conditions around transparency and governance, particularly when it came to the use of Australian aid funding.
If Mr Rudd is saying that he will not take a stand against countries no matter what occurs; he is effectively writing a blank cheque. At a time when Mr Rudd and his government are telling carers, the sick and disabled and those in need of Government services that they have to miss out, he should be making it clear that Australian funds must be used wisely – both at home and overseas.
The Coalition remains committed to a healthy relationship with PNG and hopes that the Rudd Government will build on the excellent record of the Howard Government when it came to the delivery of aid and funding to our nearest neighbours.
Media Contact: Stuart Eaton, 0433 298 620
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