10 Jul 2007

Australia angers PNG for trying to discourage the employment of Cuban doctors

3:22 pm on 10 July 2007

Papua New Guinea's outgoing Health Minister has attacked Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer for telling PNG not to employ Cuban doctors to solve its doctor shortage.

Sir Peter Barter has revealed that Mr Downer sent him a letter urging PNG not to employ Cuban doctors after the idea was first raised last year.

Sir Peter, who steps down from politics later this month after national elections, said the letter, warned that bringing in Cuban doctors could contribute to destabilised security in the Pacific.

Sir Peter says he felt the letter was totally out of place.

He says he informed Mr Downer that it is PNG's concern whether Cuban doctors are brought in and he added that the country badly needed doctors.

Sir Peter says Mr Downer and Australian Prime Minister John Howard had a lot to learn about the Pacific.