CANBERRA Nov 28 Papua New Guinea's Prime
Minister Peter O'Neill promised on Wednesday to bring stability
to the revolving door of Papua New Guinea politics and to crack
down on corruption as his government courts multi-billion dollar
O'Neill and rival Sir Michael Somare had both claimed to be
the leader of the South Pacific island nation last year, turmoil
typical of PNG politics, before O'Neill was re-elected in
In the middle of that crisis, corruption watchdog
Transparency International ranked PNG 154th out of 183 nations
on its global graft index released a year ago, only beating out
countries like Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan.
"We have to fight corruption. Corruption is like a cancer.
If it is not detected, it simply grows and grows," O'Neill told
the National Press Club in the Australian capital, Canberra.
"If not reduced, it undermines our efforts to maintain
political stability and social cohesion. It is also a strong
deterrent to good foreign investment."
On his first visit to PNG's former colonial ruler Australia
since his re-election, O'Neill said an anti-corruption
commission should start operating next year.
A special task force -- known as Sweep -- has been
investigating graft for the past year and is looking into more
than 170 complaints involving around $1 billion of public funds.
PNG, a nation of around 6.5 million people, is going through
a resources boom and is home to a $15.7 billion Exxon Mobil
gas export project, which is due to start production in
2014 and boost GDP by around 20 percent. There is also the vast
OK Tedi copper mine and the Frieda River copper project run by
Swiss-based global miner Xstrata.
Despite such abundant mineral wealth, successive governments
have been unable to deliver infrastructure or services to the
people, around 80 percent of whom eke out subsistence livings of
village farming and small cash crops.
Task force Sweep's chairman Sam Koim has targeted
politicians and officials who have invested money in the
tropical northern Australian city of Cairns, describing
Australia as the money-laundering destination of choice.
O'Neill said that, as well as plans for the new
anti-corruption body early in 2013, parliament was also working
on political stability. New laws that will guarantee a grace
period of 30 months before a government can face a no-confidence
motion, instead of the current 18 month, have passed the first
stage of the legislative process, he said.
To win power in PNG, leaders must cobble together a range of
lawmakers and parties to form a coalition. Lawmakers often
change allegiances if offered better jobs from rival parties or
leaders, which creates uncertainty and instability.
O'Neill said that, since PNG gained independence from
Australia in 1975, many governments had faced challenges as
early as six months into their terms, even though elections are
only held every five years.
"That has not created stability at all. It does not give
confidence to any investor to invest in an environment as such,"
he said. O'Neill hoped the new 30-month grace period would ease