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    By Jim Baynes, Papua New Guinea Correspondent
    PORT MORESBY, Dec 10 AAP - Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said
    today the proposed PNG Gas Project was in Australia's national
    security interest, but warned proponents that the pipeline would
    still have to make electricity cheaper for Queenslanders.
    The visiting premier said he would be "shot" by the electorate
    if he agreed to fixed long-term sales contracts which cost
    consumers more in the long run.
    Mr Beattie said he believed the $A6.8 billion project was still
    "a goer", but stressed the project had to stack up commercially.
    "We're interested, and we want to see it happen," Mr Beattie
    told a business breakfast in Port Moresby.
    "But I just want to underline so that everyone clearly
    understands (that) is it's got to be done on commercial grounds.
    "The price has got to be right and secondly the volume of what's
    produced has to be sensible and long-term," Mr Beattie said.
    "Having said all that, we will bend over backwards to facilitate
    it."
    The premier said it was in Australia's national interest to
    invest more in PNG.
    "From our point of view, it is in the national security interest
    of Australia for there to be a secure, happy and developing Papua
    New Guinea.
    "After Bali and some of the ugly things in the world, it is in
    the national interest of Australia to see such actual long-term
    investments and long-term effort in ensuring there is a stable
    economy and value-adding in this country."
    Mr Beattie said however that Queensland would continue to
    support rival methods of producing gas.
    Earlier this year, the Beattie government snubbed the PNG Gas
    Project for a big contract to supply a new power station in
    Townsville.
    But the gas project has since signed CSEnergy, the Queensland
    government-owned power generator, to a 20-year gas contract.
    The gas project has now secured more than 60 per cent of the
    necessary base load to go ahead, although much of this is from a
    deal with Sydney-based gas group AGL.
    The AGL contract requires that gas from the PNG pipeline must be
    available from the start of 2006. And pipeline operator ExxonMobil
    needs three years to complete the front-end engineering, design and
    construction stages of the project.
    Mr Beattie played down the risk of violence affecting the
    pipeline, which would run through lawless areas of the PNG
    highlands.
    "I don't see sovereign risk as being as serious a risk as some
    people are making it out to be," he said.
    Unpredictable landowners are a major impediment to resource
    development in PNG.
    AAP

 
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