Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ross Garnaut worried about PNG ban precedent


Australian economist, Ross Garnaut, says the ban imposed on him by the Papua New Guinea Government, is a low point in Australian diplomacy and PNG democracy.
Prof Garnaut resigned as chairman of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) after he was banned from entering the country.
PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, imposed the ban on Prof Garnaut last November after he weighed into a spat between O'Neill and mining giant BHP Billiton over control of the PNG Sustainable Development Program - a US$1.4 billion charitable trust that is the biggest shareholder in Ok Tedi Mining.
Prof Garnaut resigned last Friday, saying was not possible for him to fulfil his responsibilities to this large and complex company while the PNG government maintained its ban on him.
In happier days…Garnaut signs an agreement for OTML to work together with Western province with Governor Ati Wobiro in Tabubil last September.-Picture by MALUM NALU

He is concerned the PNG government action may have set a precedent.
Prof Garnaut is calling on the Australian government to negotiate an agreement with PNG to prevent this sort of incident occurring again.
"The important thing now is that things like this never happen again, that a government never again seeks to exercise leverage over legitimate international corporate interests through the misuse of immigration powers.
"If it became an accepted precedent it would introduce a major new element of sovereign risk, a barrier to PNG development and a recurring volcano in bi-lateral relations." he said.
Long-time PNG observer Stephen Howes from the Australian National University says the Australian government should have criticised the ban.
"Australia should be supporting free speech in PNG and Australia should certainly be supporting the rights of its citizens to engage in lawful business activities in other countries." he said.
He says the Australian government may have stayed silent because it needs PNG's support for the asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island.

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