PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has heaped high praise on late former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam for his spearheading of Papua New Guinea’s moves towards independence in 1975.

Mr O’Neill passed the nation’s condolences and sincere thanks to Mr Whitlam’s family after he died in October at age 98.

Mr Whitlam had been appointed an honourary grand companion of the Order of Logohu, in recognition of his role in supporting Papua New Guinea to attain sovereignty and his enduring support to the development of the nation.

Mr O’Neill said PNG’s people forever appreciated the “steadfast support that Mr Whitlam gave to the nation’s move towards self-government and ultimately independence”.

“Chief Whitlam will always hold a unique and special place in the history of Papua New Guinea as the Australian Prime Minister who worked with our founding fathers to achieve independence for our nation,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Before he became Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam provided ongoing support for Papua New Guinea’s emergence as an independent nation.

“When he became Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam worked closely with our then chief minister, grand chief Sir Michael Somare, and other founding fathers to deliver self-government in 1973 and independence two years later.

“Gough Whitlam’s Prime Ministership was almost synonymous with Papua New Guinea’s transition to independence and the people of our nation express our gratitude.

The Whitlam Government was elected in the lead-up to self-rule and was in office on the day of Papua New Guinea’s Independence.”