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PM Calls For ‘Realignment’ Of Australian Aid To PNG
O’Neill emphasizes need for aid to infrastructure development

By Blaise Nangoi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 29, 2012) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Australia and Papua New Guinea have very healthy bilateral relations but this should not be taken for granted.

Mr. O’Neill made these comments when he addressed the Press Club in Canberra, Australia, yesterday.

He said PNG-Australia relations must be strengthened to make it vibrant and relevant to both countries, especially the development aspirations of PNG and his government.

He said he wanted to see Australian aid or development assistance to PNG "more closely aligned with my government’s development priorities and programs."

"As an example, one of our greatest needs is to repair, upgrade, and most definitely expand our economic vital infrastructure, especially major roads and highways, our ports, our airports and our electricity sector."

Mr. O’Neill said to help his government deliver on this, it would require a "total realignment" of the aid program.

"I know there will be some in the ‘aid lobby’ who will be horrified by this suggestion. But if we are going to make sure your aid genuinely supports our economic and social development, and helps guarantee our security and stability, we should do so. We simply must make surer it is more targeted to align with our priorities and needs."

Mr. O’Neill also called for Australia to re-adjust its education assistance to PNG and focus more on helping the development of national high schools, better trade and vocational training centers and to also look at the country’s universities.

"This is the discussion I am keen to have with the Australian Government," Mr. O’Neill said.

He told the Press Club he will soon be also asking Australia, under its aid program, to rebuild and revitalize the public service.

"I think it is fair to say that Australian administrations in the pre-independence period did not adequately train and prepare our emerging public service for the challenges independence would bring," Mr. O’Neill said.

But it was also equally fair to say that PNG governments since independence had not done a good job "modernizing’’ or making it more effective and efficient and said he would talk to both the Federal and State governments in Australia on how they can help.

Meanwhile, Mr. O’Neill reiterated to the Australian media that PNG Sustainable Development Program chairman, Ross Garnaut is still not welcome to enter PNG after he suggested recently that he was suspicious about the push for politicians to BHP, relinquish control of the funds held in trust to sustain development after the closure of OK Tedi mine.

Mr. O’Neill said he was particularly offended by Mr. Garnaut suggesting he, a proponent of the release of the fund control by BHP, had intention to misuse the funds.

Both the Prime Minister and Mr. Garnaut have a good chance of meeting up in Sydney as the Prime Minister is penciled to open the mining conference which gets underway in Sydney next Monday. Mr. O’Neill is in Australia on a seven day visit. The visit saw him yesterday call into Parliament in Canberra to meet Australian officials for bilateral talks and later flew into Sydney in an Australian RAAF 737 aircraft.

Today he will address the Lowy Institute, an influential and powerful Australian think tank, and on Saturday he will visit a mine in Orange, New South Wales.

PNG Post-Courier:
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