8 Jun 2005

PNG and Australian officials seek solution for ECP

1:50 pm on 8 June 2005

Papua New Guinea is reported to be willing to invoke a section of the Police Act as a way around problems that have derailed most of a multi-million aid package with Australia.

Officials of both countries are to begin talks in Port Moresby tomorrow to try to find a solution to problems that have effectively unplugged the Enhanced Cooperation Programme, or ECP.

The year-old ECP treaty was thrown into doubt last month when the PNG Supreme Court ruled that immunity granted to Australian in-line police is against the country's Constitution.

PNG and Australian Ministers met in Australia recently to try to find a way forward, and said details would be thrashed out by officials meeting from tomorrow.

Today's edition of the Post Courier newspaper says PNG will push the option of invoking Section 16 of the Police Act which enables the Police Commissioner to give others police powers, functions or duties.

The leader of the PNG delegation, Foreign Affairs Secretary Gabriel Pepson, was not available to confirm whether this could be the solution PNG wants for the issue.

Australia is still pushing for a change to the PNG Constitution, which PNG is ruling out.