19 Jul 2007

Australia's foreign minister defends aid package for Nauru

1:43 pm on 19 July 2007

Australia's Foreign Minister has defended his government's financial support for and relationship with Nauru.

Alexander Downer visited Nauru earlier this week when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a renewed aid package worth about 15 million US dollars a year.

However Mr Downer has dismissed allegations by Australia's opposition leader, Kevin Rudd of Labor, that Canberra's aid package is payment for the asylum seeker detention facility on Nauru.

The Minister describes the suggestion as a misrepresentation by Mr Rudd who he says wants to do away with Australia's financial support for Nauru.

Mr Downer says to do that at a time when Nauru cannot service debts running into billions of dollars would be silly and callous.

He says Canberra provides much-needed financial support to Nauru to help it with its health and education systems.

Mr Downer also says a Labor government would close the off-shore processing centre on Nauru, which he says would give the people-smugglers more of an incentive to get back into business.