PNG Prime Minister Peter O'neill and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott discuss Manus

PNG PM. Peter O'neill 
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reassured PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill the incoming Coalition government is committed to maintaining offshore processing on Manus Island. 
The prime minister-elect spoke by telephone to O’Neill yesterday about strengthening Australia-PNG relations and ensuring asylum-seeker processing continues on Manus.
The Coalition had criticised the arrangement in opposition but said it would “salvage” what it could from the deal when in government.
O’Neill was anxious for the processing arrangement – which included a redirection of Australia’s A$500 million (K1.7 billion) PNG aid programme – to continue.
But he told The National he was open to the arrangement being reviewed.
“If there is a policy shift, or if the Australian government under Prime Minister Abbott wants this reviewed, we will welcome it.”
Abbott’s call to PNG came amid new signs the so-called PNG solution is working as a deterrent, with the Department of Immigration announcing 28 Iranians had returned voluntarily to Tehran rather than stay on Manus.
The previous Rudd government was criticised for rushing the deal to set up asylum-seeker processing, which caused tensions on Manus Island, where locals believed they were being overlooked for lucrative contracts.
There are currently 680 single adult male asylum seekers being held at Lombrum naval base on Manus.
Landowners last week blocked access to a dump site being used by the asylum-seeker facility inside Lombrum naval base, and to a gravel pit used by Australia.
Manus MP and Vice-Minister for Trade Ronny Knight, who had all but withdrawn support for the deal following tensions on the ground, is optimistic about the new Australian government.
“Now I think we have a bit more leeway for them to come to us and see what we can achieve out of this,” he said.
“I hope Scott Morrison becomes immigration minister.
“We’ve talked about this before and if he gets that portfolio it will be really good to be able to talk with him.” – The Australian
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