Prime Minister Peter O’Neill today categorically rejected an Australian television report alleging AUD1.7 billion of Australian taxpayers’ money, supposedly supply aid to PNG, being stolen from PNG’s budget annually.
Mr O’Neill has called on the Australian government and its AusAID agency to correct the misinformation campaign being waged against PNG by uninformed Australian journalists and the media community in Australia who have never been to PNG to appreciate and understand PNG’s national affairs more deeply.
“The Australian Channel 7 Television’s 'Today Tonight' report on PNG money laundering is factually incorrect,” O’Neill said in a statement.
“These are baseless allegations we can write off as the creation of an attention seeking reporter’s wildest imaginations.
“Channel 7 owes PNG and its citizens a big apology and the journalist responsible for concocting such a negative international image of PNG should be dismissed from his employment.
“No one has stolen Australian taxpayers’ precious AUD1.7 billion because that amount of Australian money has never featured in any of our national budgets to date.
“The television report is without foundation and is totally speculative,” O’Neill said.
He said the facts were clear and were obtainable from the Australian government or more specifically from the Australian Aid agency.
“There has never been any amount more than AUD1.7 billion in PNG’s annual budgets over the last 10 years,” O’Neill said.
“AusAID to PNG has not been more than AUD490 million annually over the three years from 2009 to 2012.
“Australian aid to PNG is exclusively administered in Canberra by the Australian Government’s foreign aid agency AusAID.
“All contracts and procurement of goods and services are tendered and let in Canberra to Australian consultancy companies who then employ highly paid consultants to implement their programmes in PNG.
“Under the PNG-Australia Partnership for Development arrangement PNG has been advised to expect AUD500.7 million in Australia’s 2013-2014 financial year and to expect a further AUD507.2 million in the 2013-2014 period.
“Frankly, AusAID runs a parallel education, health and HIV/AIDS, law and justice and transport and infrastructure development programme agenda to PNG’s own annual budgeted public investment programs embracing our government’s core policies of transport and infrastructure development, provision of free education and free primary health care, law and order administration and growing and diversifying our economy.
“We are in talks with the Australian government to realign the AusAID programmes with our national development priorities.
“AusAID has its place in PNG’s development but their modus operandi cannot continue to be modelled on a scattergun approach.
“I urge Australia’s Channel 7 television management and their reporting staff to be fair, factual and balanced in their reporting of PNG affairs.
“For now, I can say without fear or favour that the Channel 7 TV report alleging AUD1.7 billion of Australian aid money being stolen from PNG’s budget annually is Australian media’s most ill-researched, mischievous and misinformed piece of journalism coverage on PNG affairs.
“Australia’s development assistance to PNG under the PNG-Australia Partnership for Development over the three years from 2009 to 2012 was under AUD500 million annually.
“The Australian aid assistance we have been advised to expect for the 2012-2013 period is AUD500.7 million and AUD500.2 million for the 2013-2014.
“These are the facts,” Mr O’Neill said.