As someone who has worked for many years on bilateral aid programs with PNG this does not surprise me at all. The use of aid to leverage recipient country compliance with Australia's political agenda in the South Pacific has troubled me for over a decade. The political rhetoric has become increasingly strident in recent years - we have become comfortable with a unilateral approach to aid strategy development, although it continues to be dressed up as 'bilateral', 'consultative' etc, the implied threat of aid withdrawal if Australia's objectives are not met has pervaded bilateral consultations.
The SMH reports: "According to senior PNG officials spoken to by the Herald, Sir Michael's Government believes Mr Howard and Mr Downer are using aid to try to influence politics in the Pacific. "There are fears John Howard and Alexander Downer are using aid to underpin their plans for potential regime change," one said.
PNG also believes Australia's actions are increasingly unilateral, and in breach of the Development Co-operation Treaty signed by the two countries when Bob Hawke was prime minister, under which both governments were required to consult each other."
My main concern has been the imposition of a ‘governance’ strategy in the South Pacific. I have set out my views in more detail in an article published in On Line Opinion this week.