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Somare & Howard on Gas Project

  1. 99 Posts.
    It will be interesting to see what the outcome of discussions will be when John Howard and Sir Michael talk to finalise this Gas project.

    JOHN Howard has pledged further assistance for the new Somare Government as Papua New Guinea heads into its third year of recession.

    Mr Howard arrived in Port Moresby yesterday a few hours after Michael Somare appointed as Foreign Minister Rabbie Namaliu, who suggested last month that Australia was taking an unhealthy "big brother" approach to its former colony.

    Mr Howard, who will unveil today a monument at Isurava to the Australians who fought against the Japanese on the Kokoda Track, linked further assistance to PNG with continued economic reform.

    "We want to help Papua New Guinea where we can, make no mistake about that," Mr Howard said shortly after meeting Sir Michael last night.

    "Australia in the past has been a good friend of Papua New Guinea's and sought to link assistance to some changes and reforms, and I know the Government here is understanding of the reform challenges."

    The Prime Minister was making a clear reference to the direct budget support and other assistance provided to Sir Michael's predecessor, Mekere Morauta, who had launched an ambitious and long-overdue program of reform during his three years in office.

    No figure had been put on such assistance nor had any formal request been made by PNG. However, Sir Michael said he provided Mr Howard with the "dimensions of the budget situation".

    Progress on finalising an agreement for a multi-million-dollar gas pipeline from PNG to Queensland will also be included in the discussions, Mr Howard said.

    Sir Michael confirmed he would honour the agreement under which asylum-seekers are processed on Manus Island, despite his having been a strident opponent of the deal while in opposition.

    "We will not take more than a thousand refugees; this is an agreement with the previous government, we will honour it," he said.

    "We will allow the centre to continue, and hopefully it will fade out eventually."

    Sir Michael's 28-member cabinet includes several highly respected politicians, raising hopes the new Government can salvage PNG's stricken economy.

    Other high-profile appointments include the former minister for Bougainville affairs, Moi Avei, made Minister for Petroleum and Energy, in an appointment expected to please big business.

    Brisbane-born Carol Kidu was made Minister for Welfare and Social Development; Allan Marat was appointed Deputy Prime Minister; and Bart Philemon Treasurer.

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