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by Pricilla Raepom

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 25, 1998 - The Independent)---Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Trade Minister Tim Fischer has recommended eco-tourism as a viable means of generating revenue toward Papua New Guinea's economy.

Mr. Fischer made his comments before leaving the country this week after a four-day visit with officials regarding Australian business in PNG .

"One idea to be looked at are peak events like the Mt. Hagen show (provincial shows)... Charter operations organized direct from Cairns or Brisbane to Mt. Hagen can lift tourism in PNG," he said.

Mr. Fischer said his visit was focused on bilateral trade and investment relationship and underlined Australian government's commitment to PNG.

While in the country, Mr. Fischer visited the Tolukuma gold mines and Kutubu oil and gas project and he described the gas pipeline project as, "One of the best natural projects to usher in the new century and millennium. In more ways than one, it will stop our nations and our economies from drifting apart... It will have us bound by steel pipe with a lot of income being generated from that," he said.

Mr. Fischer also commended the resource development of mining, oil and gas in challenging circumstances in PNG.

"The size of mountains along the dangerous fast-flowing rivers, the high altitude at which mining is done, oil and gas is produced and the environmental footprints being minimized... I salute the excellence of engineering efforts," he said.

The visiting minister also warned PNG of an economically tough 1999 and cautioned the country to "run a tight ship".

"PNG is in for a tough time. If you run a tight ship, PNG can work through 1999 and the world economic downturn," he said when asked to comment on the PNG economy.

Mr. Fischer confirmed Australia's commitment on seeing PNG succeed as an independent, sovereign and prosperous nation of the Asia Pacific region.

There is a $2.5 billion two-way trade between Australia and PNG with Australian exports to PNG totaling at $1.2 billion in 1997-98.

PNG is Australia's 17th largest trading partner and tenth largest investment destination.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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