Mr Marles said this in response to accusation by Andrew Kumbakor, the defence spokesman for the Somare faction that Australia has been ignoring the country's political crisis.
Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speaker: Richard Marles, Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
MARLES: What I would say is the situation in Papua New Guinea has obviously been very difficult. We've been trying to treat this with the outmost respect as a very close friend and a close neighbour and obviously we've been watching very carefully how events have panned out in PNG. We have been advocating for those events to pan out in a peaceful way and almost exclusively that is what's occurred, which is a real credit to PNG. And we have also been advocating that that occur in the context of the Constitution. I think we've all got to understand it's a difficult time in PNG's history, but they to have elections coming up in the middle of this year. I think the whole region looks forward to those elections as an opportunity for PNG to move beyond what has been a very difficult period and obviously we will continue to work with the government of the day.
HOFMAN: But at the end of January, Australia did officially recognise O'Neill as the leader of Papua New Guinea. Was that perhaps premature?
MARLES: Oh, well we've been working with Peter O'Neill, but there's also been contact kept with all the players in PNG. This is a difficult situation which is going on in PNG. Our view has been to relate to PNG in a respectful way as possible as a close neighbour and a close friend and what we want to see is that government happens in an orderly way and I think that is occurring. We've want to make sure that this pans out in the way peaceful and by and large, that's exactly what's been occurring. And I think what is now incumbent upon all of us in the region is to provide PNG all the support they need to make sure that they can carry out their elections as effectively and efficiently when they come during the middle of this year.