|PNG Prime Minister: Peter O'neill|
By a staff reporter, with AAP
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has thrown another punch in the ongoing battle between the country and BHP Billiton Ltd, accusing the mining giant of having a colonial era attitude in its dealings with the nation, according to media reports.
The claims follows criticism of PNG, and Mr O'Neill, earlier this week from BHP in the wake of Professor Ross Garnaut's resignation from Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.
BHP said in a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade document that PNG's treatment of Prof Garnaut sent “a very bad message’’ to companies looking to do business in the country.
The miner also accused Mr O'Neill of improper dealings in the granting of of exploration licences.
In November, the PNG foreign affairs department was instructed to prevent Prof Garnaut entering the country after Mr O'Neill accused the Australian of insulting to the nation's leaders.
According to The Australian Financial Review, Mr O’Neill claims BHP needs to accept that PNG is an independent nation, and improve its negotiations with the country.
He said BHP should deal with PNG in the “...same mature and reasonable way numerous other Australian resource companies do."
Mr O’Neill also flatly denied claims that he blocked the granting or extension of exploration licences because of disagreements over certain proposals.
“This is totally and utterly false," he said, according to the AFR. "It is just dishonest.’'
A low point: Garnaut
Prof Garnaut says his PNG travel ban has been a "low point" in Australian diplomacy.
He is concerned the ban may set a precedent that would introduce a major "new element of sovereign risk, a barrier to PNG development and a recurring volcano in bilateral relations".
"My ban was a low point for Australian diplomacy," the Australian government's climate change adviser told ABC radio.
"It's a low point for PNG development and a low point for PNG democracy."
Prof Garnaut has called for Australia to push for a bilateral or regional agreement to prevent the situation recurring.
In November, Prof Garnaut was quoted as saying that with such an accumulation of wealth in PNG, it was "tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development".