22 Apr 2008

Australia-PNG Ministerial forum resumption shows relationship back on track

5:40 pm on 22 April 2008

Australia is sending six federal ministers and three parliamentary secretaries to Papua New Guinea for this week's joint ministerial forum in Madang.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that this will be the first annual Australia-PNG ministerial forum held since 2005 after a hiatus caused by a breakdown in relations.

Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says the resumption of the forum is a good sign that the Australia-PNG relationship is back on track after faltering recently.

Australia's previous government withdrew from the joint forum due to PNG's involvement in helping former Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti evade an Australian extradition attempt.

Mr Smith's travel companions include Trade Minister Simon Crean, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, Environment Minister Peter Garrett, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus.

Issues to be discussed at the forum include Pacific Development Partnerships, the Kokoda Track, climate change, and proposals for PNG nationals to undertake short-term guest work in Australia.

Meanwhile, PNG is set to push for the US$A340 million in annual AusAID funding to be better spent on infrastructure development.