11 Sep 2003

PNG newspaper says Downer tried to stop PNG minister aid speech

11:01 am on 11 September 2003

The Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is reported to have tried unsuccessfully to cancel a speech by his Papua New Guinea counterpart, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, in Port Moresby.

The National newspaper says the request by Mr Downer was delivered to the Foreign Secretary, Gabriel Pepson, by Chief Secretary, Joshua Kalinoe, after the speech was over.

In his speech, Sir Rabbie criticised Australia for being unaware of his government's efforts in addressing governance concerns.

The newspaper reports high level sources as saying Mr Downer is feeling the heat from PNG leaders and wants no further public debate on the aid issue ahead of his visit to Port Moresby next week.

Sir Rabbie said the aid debate should not be sidetracked by unsubstantiated claims of corruption and misuse surrounding the total aid program.

He said that Australian concern about corruption in the aid process is a red herring because if corruption is occurring then it is because AusAID and its managers are not preventing it.

Sir Rabbie said that while good governance is already included in the agreed funding priority, he is not sure leaders in Canberra are fully aware of it.