Pacific Scoop

PNG’s O’Neill calls for Australian aid ‘total realignment’ for roads, schools, hospitals

Peter O'Neill

Papua New Guinea PM Peter O’Neill speaking at Australia’s National Press Club yesterday. Image: Livestreaming/ABC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the Pacific Media Centre news desk

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called for a “total realignment” of the  $A500,000 in aid Australia gives his country each year, reports Radio Australia.

In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, O’Neill said development assistance was being spread “too thin” and that the funding would be better directed towards roads, schools and hospitals.

“[It] would require a total realignment of the aid programme from small projects, in a diverse range of areas, to major infrastructure projects.”

O’Neill also condemned journalists, saying descriptions of his country as a failed state were incorrect.

Papua New Guinea is the second largest recipient of Australian aid after Indonesia, with the majority of it spent on good governance and health programmes.

“Even the Australian taxpayers question… what have we achieved? All our social indicators are still very low, that is why we are trying to encourage the Australian government to participate with us in some of the key programmes that our government is now introducing.”

Radio Australia reported O’Neill said he had realised his proposals could prove unpopular.

“I know there will be some in the aid lobby who will be horrified by this suggestion. But if we are going to make sure that your aid supports our economic and social development, and helps us guarantee our security and stability, we simply must make sure it is more aligned with our priorities and needs.”

Aid is not the only area where Peter O’Neill wants to see change.

He said while Australia’s mining sector was slowing, investors should consider opportunities in PNG.

“Papua New Guinea’s mining and gas sector is not slowing down, it is in fact growing.”

But his invitation comes with conditions.

“By investing, we mean a long term investment. We do not want fly-in, fly-out arrangements that has happened in the past.”

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he would discuss O’Neill’s requests “in detail” when he meets with his PNG counterparts next week.

“We want our aid to the country to reflect the needs and the priorities of the government in Port Moresby absolutely,” Senator Carr said.

The Canberra Times reported O’Neillas saying he would like the detainees on Manus Island to be processed ”as quickly as possible, and those not found to be genuine refugees to also be repatriated to their home countries as quickly as possible”.

He also reiterated his government’s displeasure with Australian economist Ross Garnaut, saying he was no longer welcome despite his 46-year-long involvement with PNG.

Garnaut, until recently the chairman of PNG Sustainable Development Development Programme, angered the government with his comment that PNG politicians were keen to get their hands on the programme’s $A1.3 billion in cash and assets.

O’Neill said: ”As leader of the PNG government, I cannot stand by and let him [Professor Garnaut] get away with saying the wrong things which are not true, which have damaged the reputation of PNG’s leaders.”

O’Neill speech video on ABC