10 Aug 2011

PNG's O'Neill outlines broad agenda but opposition fails to show up

11:03 am on 10 August 2011

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Peter O'Neill, has outlined a broad agenda for his week-old government.

In parliament, Mr O'Neill promised closer ties to Australia and the establishment of an independent commission against corruption.

In a wide-ranging speech, he also promised free education to students up to year 10 as part of the 2012 budget, and a reinvigoration of the nation's police force ahead of the 2012 elections.

Mr O'Neill told parliament his government will strengthen PNG's relationships particularly with neighbours Australia and Indonesia.

Since 2005, the former government of Sir Michael Somare had encouraged a "look North" policy, supporting closer ties to nations such as China, rather than Australia.

However, the opposition benches were empty, with MPs loyal to former acting prime minister Sam Abal refusing to attend the session.

The deputy prime minister, Belden Namah, later blasted opposition MPs for boycotting yesterday's first sitting of parliament.

Mr Namah condemned former acting prime minister Sam Abal and his supporters for refusing to participate in parliament a week after MPs voted 70 to 24 to oust Mr Abal and his government.