Originally appear on ABC NEWS
By Suzie Raines
6 March 2015
A director of an independent monitor of Australia’s aid and trade policy says the Government must do more to combat corruption in Papua New Guinea, including bringing to account Australian companies involved in fraudulent land and business leases in the Pacific nation.
Thulsi Narayanasamy, a director of Aid Watch, said Australia’s $577-million-a-year aid budget to PNG was focused on anti-corruption measures but Australia was “benefitting” from corruption there.
Ms Narayanasamy said there was a Commission of Inquiry into the department of finance in PNG which cited a number of individuals that had links to Australia, including an official at the centre of the widespread fraud of 780 million kina ($AU380 million) who has since come to Australia.
“Similarly, a recent Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural and Business Leases, or SABLs… tabled (in) 2013 (found) a number of Australian companies were cited as having engaged in fraudulent leases. One of these companies benefitted from the largest lease in PNG history and that is a Queensland-based company,” she said.
“Australia has done nothing to bring these companies to account… despite them being Australian. We would see that as Australia, or Australian companies, benefitting off the corruption in PNG.”
Ms Narayanasamy said Australia had a responsibility to address Australian company involvement in fraudulent leases, and also to support PNG’s domestic anti-corruption measures.
A taskforce established in 2011 by the then-PNG government was discredited by the PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill after its investigations resulted in the issuing of a warrant for his arrest.
Ms Narayanasamy questioned Australia’s reasons for not supporting national anti-corruption measures in PNG.
“Sam Koim, who is head of that Taskforce Sweep, did come to Canberra on a number of occasions to seek Australian parliamentary support for this and he was rebuffed saying that corruption is a domestic issue,” she said.
“For something like the commission of enquiry into SABLs… we don’t really see what’s stopping Australia from publically supporting overturning these fraudulent leases as well as supporting how that would logistically happen within PNG through the Australian aid program.”
The ABC has sought comment from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Steven Ciobo.