8 Apr 2005

Australia dismisses PNG's demand for apology

3:59 pm on 8 April 2005

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, has rejected Papua New Guinea's demands for an apology over the treatment of PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, at an Australian airport.

PNG has suspended an Australian assistance programme, saying Australia must apologise for making Sir Michael remove his shoes during a security check at Brisbane airport last month.

The incident has provoked protests in PNG, which has now cancelled meetings with Australian officials over the row.

Mr Howard says Australia and PNG will have to work through the incident, but did not offer an apology.

He says it should be understood that what was applied are the rules that apply to everybody.

The Human Services Minister, Joe Hockey, says PNG's action will only hurt its own people.

The opposition foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says the PNG government should be more concerned with its looming health crisis.