21 Apr 2005

PNG academic says Australia may yet back down in a diplomatic row with PNG

8:15 pm on 21 April 2005

A leading Papua New Guinea academic says he believes Australia may yet back down in a bitter and divisive row that began over a security check at Brisbane Airport.

PNG is still waiting for Australia to say sorry for offending the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, by asking him to remove his shoes at a security check.

Professor Allan Patience, head of political science at the University of PNG and a lecturer in political science in Melbourne, says the incident may have been engineered by either side, or both.

He says this may have been done to bring about changes in the Enhanced Cooperation Programme between the countries, which PNG has partly suspended because of the row.

Professor Patience says Australia must either apologise and get the ECP back on track or pull out of it.

"If Australia really wants the ECP to work, if it wants to get deeply involved in Papua New Guinea for its own security purposes, then it needs to really think about taking the heat out of the whole thing and saying to Sir Michael, Look we're awfully sorry, we didn't mean to humiliate you and we certainly didn't mean to humiliate Papua New Guinea -- it ought to be in the language of Papua New Guinea rather than Sir Michael -- and we really would like to get on with what our relationship should really be all about'."

Professor Allan Patience.