Horizon corruption scandal erupts in Australia and extends to PNG

Horizon Oil is at the heart of a corruption scandal that has erupted in Australia and extends to PNG. Further to reports of alleged bribery in The Australian Financial Review, there have been calls for the government of PNG to launch an inquiry. Prime Minister Marape is also facing pressure to stand down William Duma, who is the current Minister for Commerce. He was previously the Petroleum Minister and has been named in the reports carried in the Australian media. Horizon has suspended their CEO in the wake of the reports. The Australian Federal Police has confirmed that it has commenced an investigation. Bribery of foreign officials is an offence under Australian law. Prime Minister Marape has said previously that he wants to deal strongly with corruption in his country. The Minister for petroleum, Kerenga Kua has said that his department will look into this matter.

MPs lose their seats in Solomon Islands

Two MPs have lost their seats in Solomon Islands. This is as a result of election petitions that were heard recently by the High Court. The MPs are John Moffat Fugui and Jamie Vokia. They were each found guilty of bribing voters ahead of the elections that were held in April last year. Under changes to the electoral law in Solomon Islands, challenges to election results must be heard within twelve months. Both of the MPs were members of the government led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. Fugui was serving as Minister for Education and Human Resources Development. He also recently served as chair of the task force that looked into whether Solomon Islands should switch its diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China. Vokia was the deputy chair of that task force. The vacated seats will now be recontested in bye-elections.

President of Israel to visit Fiji

The President of Israel will visit Fiji this week. President Reuven Rivlin is expected to meet with leaders from a number of Pacific island countries whilst hosted by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Israel does not have an established diplomatic presence in the Pacific islands region but has relationships with a number of Pacific island countries. It has an Ambassador to the Pacific, Tibor Schalev-Schlosser. Recently, Israel has been seeking to increase the number of honorary consulates it has in the region. Israel offers a number of scholarships to Pacific island students and also provides technical training to officials, with agriculture often being a focus. This summit will include leaders from Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga. Ambassador Schalev-Schlosser has identified the fields of public health, food security, water management and disaster preparedness as the focus for this week’s meeting.

Australia’s infrastructure facility to announce its first project

Australia’s infrastructure facility is expected to announce its first project. The Australia Infrastructure Investment Facility-Pacific was established in 2018. Its aim is to provide finance by way of grants and loans for major infrastructure in the region. Its first project is expected to be support for electrification in Papua New Guinea. The government of PNG has committed to providing electricity to 70% of the population by 2030 (currently around 13% of people have access). It is not clear how much money will provided, or in what form. There are also no details yet about the detail of what projects this finance will support. In late 2018, at the APEC meeting in Port Moresby, Australia was one of a number of countries who pledged to work with PNG to achieve its ambitious target of 70% electrification. The others were USA, New Zealand and Japan.


Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute.