Queensland Government To Help Build New PNG Hospital

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Australian official cites ‘untapped potential’ for businesses

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 1, 2013) – The Queensland Government has committed to help Papua New Guinea build a new hospital in Daru, the capital of the country's Western Province.

The project was announced during PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's visit to Townsville in Queensland on the weekend.

Gavin King, head of Queensland's PNG task force, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat there is untapped potential for north Queensland businesses to expand into the Pacific.

"The PNG government has a lot of resources, a lot of funding available but they don't quite have the capacity and the expertise to deliver on those projects and that's the whole reason they have come to the Queensland Government," he said.

The hospital construction will be funded by PNG with Queensland providing expertise for design, construction, administration and management.

Dawson Wilkie, from Townsville Chamber of Commerce says north Queensland businesses should be the Queensland government's first choice.

"We want to increase the business links and I think from those business links, then there might be increases in traffic," he said.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill does not believe Queensland businesses will prevent PNG nationals developing their own businesses and prosperity.

"Where there is capacity within our country, we are encouraging joint ventures with the national businesses to participate in," he said.

Mr. O'Neill says he would like the exchange to go both ways, boosting the number of PNG nationals coming to Australia.

Thousands of PNG students are currently learning trades at TAFE colleges in Townsville and Cairns.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill supports the increase but says getting the balance right will be difficult.

"We don't want to see massive people movements out of PNG into Australia," she said.

However, one major obstacle to creating stronger links remains - there are no direct flights between the Townsville and PNG.

Mr. O'Neill says there are plans to change this.

"We're looking at direct flights between Port Moresby and Townsville. And we are going to encourage that with our own airline," he said.

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