Thursday, August 04, 2011

Gillard congratulates O’Neill

 AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Julia Gillard has become the first world leader to congratulate Peter O'Neill on his appointment as PNG's new prime minister, The National reports.
Gillard telephoned O'Neill in Port Moresby yesterday afternoon and in a brief conversation said Canberra looked forward to working closely with the new government under O'Neill's leadership.
Both leaders stressed the importance of continuing the strong relations that existed between their two countries.
Under O'Neill, Canberra is likely to focus its annual aid programmes and budget support on rural and district development, something the new prime minister championed in the previous Somare-led coalition called the District Support Improvement Programme.
He assured Gillard that his government would ensure that PNG's economic growth remained on track and that the 2011 Budget, which he framed when he was treasurer, achieved its targets.
As a cabinet minister in the previous Somare government, O'Neill had led discussions with Canberra on the direction of Australian aid, the LNG project, and the development of sovereign wealth funds to capture revenue from the PNG LNG project.
O'Neill is expected to use his experience and close working relationship with Canberra to ensure the Australian support of PNG's development programmes benefit the district and rural areas directly.
"Prime Minister O'Neill assured Gillard that the PNG economic growth remained on track, and that the 2011 budget, which O'Neill framed as treasurer, would achieve its targets," a statement issued by the prime minister's office said.
Australia had provided aid annually to PNG since independence, and Canberra has always enjoyed a close working relationship with all governments of PNG

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