PNG Aid Request Catches Julie Bishop Off Guard

CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA) - Australia's aid partnership with PNG is due to be renewed this year, so the Government was already evaluating the program.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia did not know PNG would make the request.

"That's apparently a matter that's been discussed within the PNG Government, it's been raised with us today and we'll consider it," she said.

The change harks back to the way Australia used to deliver aid in PNG, by funding its budget directly.

But Australia stopped doing that in the early 1990s because of concerns about corruption and mismanagement.

Those concerns have not gone away.

Ms Bishop said any change to the aid program would need to meet Australia's accountability standards.

    "We want to ensure that it's transparent, that it's value for money and it provides the kind of outcomes that will see economic development and prosperity here in PNG," she said.

"And of course we must be answerable to the Australian taxpayer."

The Government fears those taxpayers are becoming increasingly sceptical about the benefits of foreign aid. (abc)
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