REVAMPED AUSSIE AID PACKAGE TO PNG RESTORED

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By Isaac Nicholas and Anton Huafolo

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 25) - Papua New Guinea and Australia have agreed on a "remodeled" Enhanced Cooperation Programme (ECP) which will focus on tackling corruption.

One of the main stumbling blocks of the original ECP - immunity for Australian police personnel has been resolved.

Australians will now come without immunity and will not go on foot patrols.

They will be with the fraud and anti-corruption directorate, forensics and other sections in advisory capacities focusing on the fight against corruption.

The aid package of AUD$800 million (USD$604 million) has also been reduced by half.

Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu and his counterpart Alexander Downer announced the successful conclusion at a press conference after "robust" discussions yesterday.

Downer, who arrived in Port Moresby on Tuesday night, said: "The series of meetings that we have had during the course of the day, I think, have been very successful.

"The ECP is something no other partnership between a developed and a developing country has tried before. It’s a very ambitious program," he said.

Other main features of the new ECP include:

Downer said there was strong emphasis on tackling corruption because it was an issue of serious concern and very much "in the forefront on the minds of Australian tax-payers."

He said the focus on fighting the menace would strengthen the confidence of the people of both countries.

Therefore, he said, he would also like to see the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption even as Australians would continue to work in government departments like the Treasury and Finance, Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Justice, Attorney-General and Auditor-General.

The ECP will also include police training in PNG and Australia and advisers will be sent to work with provincial police commanders to increase capacity.

Sir Rabbie said Australia’s proposals were in line with PNG’s thinking.

"It’s pleasing to note that our ministerial colleagues as well agreed that is the best way to move forward," he said.

He said corruption was also addressed within the context of the Medium-Term Development Strategy (MTDS).

"We see this remodel packaged falling under MTDS and corruption has got to be at the centre of it."

Sir Rabbie said the government was making progress but it was not fast enough or not big enough in some areas, and needed help in strategic areas like police, justice and capacity building.

"On the policing side, I think we both agree that as a result of the question of immunity, obviously we are not in a position to provide sufficient legal protection to the extent that they require and for that reason that will be scaled down," he said.

Sir Rabbie said details of the remodeled ECP would be ironed out at the official level.

August 26, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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