PNG starts talks with Australia to resurrect the Enhanced Cooperation Program

13/10/2011 14:10

Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers who were deployed to PNG in 2005 under the Enhanced Cooperation

Program (ECP). Their engagement was later nullified after the PNG Supreme Court ruled their immunities were



Papua New Guinea has started discussions with Australia to resurrect the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP).

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who made his first visit to Canberra early this week as head of government, told the ABC in an interview last night that his government has initiated discussions with Canberra to resurrect the program.

“One other major initiative that we are now embarking on with the Australian government is that of the law and order issues. We are now revisiting the Enhanced Cooperation Program, under which the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies will engage to take line positions within Papua New Guinea. That is being revisited now and discussions are going on now and they are very positive,” he said.

The ECP was an initiative of the Howard government to assist PNG tackle lawlessness and economic management via the strategic deployment of Australian personnel into key state agencies. However the $AU800 million program was scuttled after the PNG Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the immunity given to the Australian bureaucrats was unconstitutional.

Mr O’Neill said discussions were already underway between the two governments to ensure the revised program did not suffer the same fate.

“We are now discussing ways to make sure that they legalise the arrangement in a local manner so protection is given to the personnel who are going to come.”

Australian PM Julia Gillard did not release a lot of details except to say in a statement that Australia was working with PNG to develop the next stage of the Australia-PNG policing partnership.

“We have been working with Papua New Guinea to develop the next phase of the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership. Australia will provide a range of training and support services to improve the capabilities of the PNG police," she said.

Though, she did confirm that AFP officers will be deployed into the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC) but not in front-line duties unlike in 2005.

“These positions will be subject to PNG needs and officers will work in senior, strategic roles. They will not undertake front-line policing. Final details will be determined in discussions with Papua New Guinea.”