22 Apr 2005

Nonsense, says Australian minister, in response to claims PNG spat was pre-planned

3:37 pm on 22 April 2005

Australia has dismissed as nonsense, claims either it or PNG, may have engineered the Somare airport row for their own ends.

The professor of political science at the University of PNG, Allan Patience, said a split in the PNG Cabinet about the ECP aid programme had led to divisions over the security-row issue.

But Australia's junior foreign minister, Bruce Billson dismisses the idea that the diplomatic row has been arranged because both Canberra and Port Moresby now recognise the ECP's not working out.

"That's just a ridiculous suggestion, I mean I haven't met anybody that wishes for other than a successful implementation of ECP. If people have got ideas about further constructive and positive involvement of Australian and Papua New Guinean officials in tackling the very real challenges that ECP's seeking to tackle; I mean that's a useful input but the other speculation, I think that's just straight nonsense."

Mr Billson couldn't offer an apology to PNG after its prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, was asked to take his shoes off during a security check in Brisbane.