PNG awaits Abbot’s move

THE election of a new government in Australia should augur well for Papua New Guinea-Australia relations with key Liberal Party figures already committing to building on the relationship.
However, discontent in Manus over benefits expected to flow from the Australian-funded regional migration processing centre confirms that the government of Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbot needs to get to work immediately upon entering office to avoid a confrontation between disgruntled landowners and the centre’s contractors and service providers. Head of PNG Business Council Ernie Gangloff and Chey Scovell, head of the Australia Business Council and the PNG Manufacturers Council, told the Post-Courier in separate interviews last night that Deputy Liberal Party Leader Julie Bishop had assured PNG leaders in her previous visits that they would build on the PNG-Australia relationship that was put back on track by the Labor government.
“When Julie Bishop came up here as the shadow minister, she took the time to meet with a number of people here in business and gave strong assurances that she was going to pay attention to Papua New Guinea and recognise the importance of the relationship,” said Mr Scovell.
The PNG Manufacturers Council has been critical in recent weeks of the Manus Island regional migration processing center, accusing Australia of giving contracts to Australian companies and avoiding PNG firms.
Mr Gangloff, on the other hand, said they did not expect any major policy shift in terms of Australia’s priorities in PNG and their own discussions with key Australian Liberal Party personalities over the years indicated that they were keen to build on the foundation that was put in place by Labour government.
An Australia-PNG ministerial summit scheduled for the end of the year would provide the first opportunity for the Liberal government to interact with colleagues from PNG, added Mr Gangloff while emphasizing that the arrival of a new government gave PNG businesses the chance to again highlight the importance of collaboration between the PNG Government and the private sector when it came to service delivery.
Manus MP Ronny Knight told this newspaper last night that the Australian government had already awarded $AU200 million worth of contracts to service providers for Manus, which in his view was illegal and should not have been happened.
“With the Liberal government in power now I think we have a bit more leeway for them to come and sit with us and talk with us and see what we can achieve out of this. I am quite happy with that I hope Mr (Scott) Morrison becomes the new immigration minister and we’ve talked about this before when he was the shadow minister and if he gets that portfolio it will be really good to be able to talk with him,” he said.
Prime Peter O’Neill joined other world leaders in congratulating Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbot on his victory in the Australian national elections. 
He conveyed his congratulatory message in a letter on behalf of the people and Government of PNG.
“Allow me on this wonderful occasion on behalf of the government and people of Papua New Guinea to offer our sincere congratulations to you on your election as Prime Minister of Australia following conclusion of the Australian national elections,” he stated. 
“I have on two occasions met with you during my official visits to Australia in the last two years and very much look forward to another opportunity to renew my acquaintance and discuss matters pertaining to our bilateral relations. Perhaps we could meet on the margins of the forthcoming APEC Leaders meeting in Bali in early October, of course, dependent on your schedule.”

Post Courier /Pacific Flash
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