Australia 'benefits' from PNG corruption

AUSTRALIA N companies were benefiting from corrupt practices in Papua New Guinea, with Aid Watch director Thulsi Narayanasamy saying Australia had done nothing to bring them to account.

She told the ABC last week that Australian companies were involved in fraudulent land and business leases, which undermined the country's credibility.

"Similarly, a recent Commission of Inquiry into Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) tabled in 2013 found a number of Australian companies were cited as having engaged in fraudulent leases," she said. Aid Watch is an independent aid monitor.

She said one of the companies to benefit from "the largest lease in PNG history" was a Queensland-based company.

"Australia has done nothing to bring these companies to account ... despite them being Australian. We would see that as Australia, or Australian companies, benefiting off the corruption in PNG.

Narayanasamy also said she was perplexed as to why Australia was ambivalent in supporting anti-corruption measures in PNG, despite a $A577 million aid budget focused on tackling the issue.

"For something like the commission of inquiry into SABLs ... we don't really see what's stopping Australia from publicly supporting overturning these fraudulent leases as well as supporting how that would logistically happen within PNG through the Australian aid program," she said.

In a parliamentary hearing into promoting economic growth and poverty reduction in the Indo-Pacific region in early February, Australian National University visiting fellow Paul Flanagan said strong governance programs were essential to tackling corruption in PNG and support good macro-economic policy.

He also said that Australian laws could help curb corrupt practices in the country, and that the chairman of the defunct Taskforce Sweep Sam Koim was concerned that Australia had not done enough to deter corrupt practices in PNG.

"On occasions … the appropriate utilisation of Australian laws could be a useful adjunct to other actions. For example, poor macro-economic policies can also be a reflection of corruption," he told the Foreign Affairs and Aid sub-committee.

"We have Australian and international rules, such as anti-money laundering rules and proceeds of crime legislation that arguably could be used to reduce the incentives for corruption."

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