Kevin Rudd flies to PNG on Thursday, and Michael Somare wants to use the visit to erase bitter memories of the Howard years, when the relationship between Australia and PNG reached a new low, with some commentators expressing fear that Australia would impose sanctions against PNG.
The Somare Government now sees a new beginning. Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal yesterday appealed to all Papua New Guineans to embrace the visit by Mr Rudd. He said the March 6-8 visit “has the potential to reshape the scope and spirit in which Australia and PNG conduct the existing bilateral relationship”.
“This visit builds on the momentum both our leaders started in Indonesia last December, so let’s give it the chance it deserves,” he said . More than 1,000 school children will form part of the welcome proceedings in Port Moresby and Goroka. On arrival, Mr Rudd will inspect a guard of honour at the airport, before paying a courtesy call on Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane. He then meets Sir Michael. The two prime ministers will then hold a joint media conference. Sir Michael will host an official dinner at Parliament House that night.
On Friday, Mr Rudd will be the guest of honour at a breakfast organised by the PNG Australia Business Council. He will lay a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery before leaving for Goroka where he will visit two AusAID-funded projects. He overnights in Port Moresby before departing on Saturday for the Solomon Islands. Details of what is to be discussed between Mr Rudd and Sir Michael have not been released.
Source: PNG National