15 Sep 2003

Australia and PNG officials deny gagging claim

3:48 pm on 15 September 2003

Australian and Papua New Guinea officials have denied last week's newspaper report that the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tried to stop his PNG counterpart from giving a public speech about aid.

The National newspaper reported that the PNG foreign secretary Gabriel Pepson was given the request but he has denied this while the paper stands by its story.

The report came amid a debate in PNG and Australia over Australian aid, which the Australian government wants to review amid claims of corruption.

The PNG foreign minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, has said all aid is monitored by AusAID which he says can detect abuse through its audits.

Sir Rabbie says Mr Downer has been now been invited to Port Moresby for the review talks but no date has been announced.

Differences had led the PNG government to defer Mr Downer's visit which had been planned for last Wednesday.