16 Oct 2006

Annual joint ministerial conference for Australia and PNG now in doubt

3:59 pm on 16 October 2006

Uncertainty looms over a key joint conference held each year by Australia and Papua New Guinea after Canberra's move to suspend ministerial relations with PNG.

Alexander Downer yesterday announced the suspensions over PNG government involvement in the escape of wanted Australian lawyer Julian Moti to Solomon Islands.

Mr Moti was flown to the Solomons in a PNG Defence Force aircraft last Tuesday.

Our correspondent in Port Moresby, Alex Rheeney, says Sir Michael Somare's government is already feeling the consequences of the suspension.

"The holding of the annual Australia/PNG Ministerial Forum which was scheduled to be held in East New Britain Province in December, Alexander Downer has indicated that he's not sure whether that will now go ahead. The PNG government were actually looking forward to that taking place but it's not going to happen unless there's an improvement in diplomatic relations before December. Besides that, Sir Michael Somare was supposed to give a keynote address at the PNG Petroleum and Mining conference in Sydney in December, but it looks like that will also not take place due to this latest situation."

Alex Rheeney