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16 March 2012

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Thank you to everyone who responded to my blog. I appreciate the many positive suggestions that have been raised.

I consider Papua New Guinea one of Australia's top foreign policy priorities. While there have been highs and lows in the past (as with all relationships), it is how we manage these periods that matters.

As friends, it is important that we treat each other with respect and avoid the public grandstanding we have seen by the Gillard Government in the past week.

I whole heartedly agree with comments about the importance of travelling outside Port Moresby in order to gain a proper understanding of PNG.

When I was in the country last year, I travelled up to the Southern Highlands to see the large oil and gas projects first hand. While there, I also had the opportunity to visit a local medical clinic and a HIV/AIDS centre.

I am certainly aware of the challenges facing service delivery and providing basic infrastructure such as roads in remote parts of the country.

I am hopeful of visiting a few regional centres again when I return next month.

Judging from your comments, there appears to be strong support for initiatives that improve the knowledge and understanding between Australia and PNG, particularly at the community level.

I am a strong believer in promoting two-way student exchange as a way building a new generation of friendships between our two countries.

Sport, whether it be rugby league, union or Aussie rules, can also play an key role. In government, the Coalition will be looking very closely at the role sport can play in our broader engagement with PNG.

Projects such as the Crocodile Prize are also very useful in this regard. For the people of PNG, creating national leaders in the arts - just as in sport - that younger generations can aspire to is very important.

I think the idea of empowering women financially is also very sound. On a recent trip to the Solomon Islands, I had an opportunity to meet with a group of women who operate successful small businesses in Honiara.

This idea not only ties into my determination to move the relationship between Australia and PNG to an economic partnership, but also my interest to work with women leaders in our region to establish a forum for dialogue and action on common interests including security, education, health, human rights and development.

A Coalition government will work within this forum to establish a network of mentors to encourage women in the region to take up political leadership roles.

I agree that reducing corruption remains a pressing issue. When I am in PNG, I will certainly make enquires about what Australia can do to support Task Force Sweep.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the concerns that many people expressed regarding AusAID. I have been concerned for some time about reports of waste and mismanagement within the AusAID budget.

In the lead up to the last election, I called for an independent inquiry of Australia’s aid program to investigate the concerns of the Australian National Audit Office about AusAID’s capacity to deliver the current aid budget efficiently and effectively.

It is important that Australia’s assistance is spent wisely and the benefits are felt at the local community level.

Thank you again for your feedback.

Julie

Five activists fighting for an independent West Papua have been jailed for three years after being found guilty of treason, but their lawyers immediately vowed to appeal (Sydney Morning Herald, March 17-18).

The five defendants were caught up in a crackdown after a National Congress of West Papuan tribes last October symbolically declared independence.

The men are Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, Agustinus Sanany Kraar, Selpius Bobii and Dominikus Sorbet. Forkorus is the "president" of the declared Federal Republic of West Papua and Edison is the "prime minister".

The court ignored the fact that the congress was held in the open with the knowledge of the security forces. The defendants had even asked the Home Affairs Minister to be the keynote speaker. Hardly the modus operandi of traitors.

If Bob Carr wants to flex his macho muscles he should make a pronouncement on this obvious miscarriage of justice.

He won't, of course, because he is currently sucking up to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The gutless approach by successive Australian governments to the situation in West Papua is truly sickening.

Phil makes some good points. I don't see why there shouldn't be some focussed bipartisan effort - perhaps not a bureaucratic monster but a lean Ministry for Regional Affairs, to back up and complement 'Foreign' Affairs, reflective of the different parameters involved in our regional relationships. And keep up to speed with all that that entails.

After all, PNG is hardly foreign. Why shouldn't there be appropriate recognition and acknowledgment of the special relationship and our common interests?

Apart from all this I feel Julie Bishop is almost certainly smarter and more likely to merit public trust than some other parliamentarians.

And nice one, Paul. That last line should be written in letters of flaming fire six feet high, in front of every government and corporate organisation across the planet. "Seek understanding". Yes.

The essence of the issue is this:

Don't ask: 'What should I do?'

Seek understanding and then you'll know what to do.

Those years of high-handed arrogance and bumbling diplomacy (an oxymoron in Biggles' case) between Alexander Downer and PNG has left me with an uneasiness about the Liberal Party and its intentions.

I think Julie Bishop needs to clear the air on this point and acknowledge that the Howard years were bad for our relationship with PNG.

Somare's hatred for Downer, whether justified or not, set the tone in those years and we are still reaping that bitter harvest. This is what makes Carr's inane blunder so much worse, he sounds like a terrible Downer caricature.

The point made by Robin Mead is also important but I don't know how you can engineer a bipartisan approach by Australia.

One suggestion might be to acknowledge that the relationship is very special and to set up an organisation within government to deal exclusively with PNG. That way you could counter the destructive inclinations of AusAID.

The downside of that, of course, is that you just create another monster. Perhaps a fully fledged minister rather than a parliamentary secretary for the region?

Noel Pearson, a very smart and outspoken indigenous leader in Australia, has often made the point that working with the Liberals is easier than working with Labor.

He maintains that the Libs are willing to make hard decisions, like pulling people off welfare (referred to as 'sit-down' money by Aborigines) while Labor is too enmeshed with its bleeding heart and politically correct attitudes to be effective.

He also gets on well with Tony Abbott, who is going out of his way to tackle indigenous issues in Australia - not that we want to conflate indigenous issues in Australia with PNG.

I wonder whether Julie Bishop will become like all politicians and be corrupted by power. As Frank Hardy says in his seminal novel, 'Power Without Glory' "government is there to look after the needs of the rich". She needs to convince us otherwise.

Every single point made here, every single contribution and contributor, is valuable. The macro, the micro, the sensitivity issues, the nuances and shading. And each with coherent focus.

Julie Bishop's visit will no doubt benefit from these insights, many coming from years of hard experience and freely volunteered.

But as well as serving these up for Ms Bishop and no doubt saving her advisers, researchers and minders a certain amount of time and shoe leather, I think we should rightly and sensibly be collecting these ideas and grouping them so that they are coherently accessible but not aligned to political or other interest, but purely -purely - to the special relationship and relationships between our two countries (not trying to make work for Keith but how might this be achieved?).

I do not want good ideas to become the stuff or property of (appropriated to or by) one political party or another, or some corporate interest group. I believe and hope that Ms Bishop would appreciate that this is how it is, truly and notwithstanding varying political doctrines or affiliations, a constructive form of democracy at work.

Democracy, that that much misused, misunderstood word.. but it can be improved provided people are willing to pay attention to the details that count.

So, truly all the best to Ms Bishop and anyone else who is prepared to put in the time and the effort.
___________

I'm sure Ms Bishop's office will review the information offered and deliver a coherent response. As for the government, and the totality of the democratic process, the more acute the Opposition is on PNG, the more likely it is that the government will sharpen its own current tres ordinaire approach - KJ

Just following up on the solid discussion happening here regarding PNG Attitude views on how to improve the Australia-PNG relationship - will Julie Bishop confirm she has read the comments in some manner?

I for one would appreciate such an acknowledgement.
__________

A lot of readers up late tonight, Tavuruvur (including me, I guess). Yes, Ms Bishop's office has indicated that the shadow minister will be responding to the observations and questions that have been raised - KJ

And Julie, consider this. A true PNG National Cultural Museum - with contributions from world museums.
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/02/return-new-ireland-artwork-says-png-group.html

I am proud to state that I believe there is 100 times more collective wisdom and experience amongst PNG Attitude readers and commentators than in the combined resources of the Australian government and parliament.

PS. I also have a car that Carr is welcome to use when in PNG. It's on bricks at 9 Mile - just needs four new wheels, a battery and a bit of a service. I believe I can even rustle-up a driver and a security detail from my 2 Mile relos.

Carr's car from hell!
_________

And Kranz knows cars from hell. Don't think Torpedo Bob would want to stump up the readies, though - KJ

This Carr goes in reverse.

Senator Carr today said his comments had been "misunderstood and used out of context" and that he now fully accepted that PNG's elections would be held on time.

If you watch the interview, it's pretty difficult to see how it could be misunderstood.

You stuffed up Bob - admit it and stop trying to make excuses.

You may yet redeem youself if you undertake a fact-finding and relationship-building visit to PNG.

Ask Julie if she'll let you join her.

It will save PNG Attitude readers from having to repeat everything.
__________

Tune in to PNG Attitude tomorrow to get our take on Carr's latest patronising gaffe - KJ

Trevor - The first three paragraphs are the crux of the matter of your appraisal of what Mr Paul Oates said in his comments. (Interestingly Paul also is an old boy of Pindiu - he worked there from December 1969).

However Ms Julie Bishop is in the opposition and unless a complete (naughty word) occurs, the LNP is still 18 months away from gaining government.

Kevin Rudd may get the call up from UN headquarters in New York and off like a flash he will go - exit one Labor member.

Ms Bishop has stated that she will be taking other LNP members with her, let us hope that Senator Sue Boyce is one of them.

She worked as a journalist prior to politics in PNG and prior to PNG independence. It is quite possible that Senator Boyce is the only member of the Australian Federal Parliament that has actually lived in Papua New Guinea.

Ms Bishop as has been correctly suggested, should get out of the precincts of POM and Lae, and get to basics.

The rural people - those being ignored by the people who have the use of a certain jet and access to $800,000 for obscene displays at a Sydney Casino and God only knows how long this casino spending of "funds" has been going on.

Ms Bishop, if she does her tour correctly and has access to the monies offered from Australia by DFAT and AusAID, will be doing us all a great favour.

An update from the High Commissioner, see both so-called PMS and various others in POM and then get the hell into the rural areas.

Then her trip might be worthwhile. See the likes of Martyn Namorong, Lydia Kailap, Peter Daniels and Gelab Piak (who seems strangely to have disappeared), also responsible persons as retired Commodore Reg Renagi.

Then as suggested by Paul - give a report card on the trip for us all to see.

Good luck Julie - seems it is all in your lap now. Richard Marles has been a total failure.

Dear Ms Bishop - If AusAID is to deliver in PNG you need a new set of 'kiaps' [ask Keith et al what kiaps did].

What you currently have in PNG is the existence of an "AusAID industry" or "industrial AusAID" or "commercial AusAID" that has nothing to do with development but how much money a company can make from an AusAID contract.

Bring back the kiaps, i.e., Australian public servants who work for AusAID and really do care about delivering development aid while building people to people relations.

That was what the kiaps did and they [the kiaps] left a very good "hanmak" [legacy] which is still talked about in many remote corners of PNG.

I endorse 100% what Paul Oates has said.

Before Ms Bishop goes to PNG she should get a detailed list of projects AusAID has funded over the last year with a copy of their detailed expenses.

Then she should make sure she checks some of them out to see if we are getting value for money. Even though she's on the opposition she should be entitled to these details. I've found that AusAID is reluctant to publish these figures which leads me to be suspicious.

Like Paul says, meet with the rural police, medical staff at medical clinics, visit dilapidated schools and talk with rural village people. Leave the high rollers and other selfish officials and get local people to be your guides.

People like Martyn Namorong and Lydia Kailap can tell you the stories you need to listen to.

We know that, in the past prior to Independence, so much progress was made with very limited funds. Many stories have been told of the amazing work done for example the Highlands Highway under the direction of Ian Downs and supervised by Bob Cleland.

If so much could be achieved with so little then the question has to be asked why hasn't there been much progress in the rural areas in spite of PNG receiving billions of dollars from its resouces.

Finally don't do a Kevin Rudd stunt where he was feeding his own ego and doing nothing to help the people in rural PNG. Be genuine or don't go.

I'm sure that many Aussies would volunteer to be your guide and interpreter if they were sure your motives were genuine. But you need to hear what the rural villagers have to say. Then act.

I think we should not "micro" suggest things and risk making it look like we are asking the Australian government to play the role of the PNG government.

I very well understand the passion behind some of the suggestions for “micro” projects. And I respect that. But the downside is that Papua New Guineans may view this as condescending and may resist any Aussie partnership arrangements that are made in good faith.

There is a very fine line in getting the right balance. And I think finding that balance has been half the problem in our relationship.

But thanks to Keith and Phil and the great Croc Prize initiative, I think we are beginning to find the right pathway for an honest partnership engagement.

In sum, in my view Australia-PNG relationship should give primacy to cultural diplomacy especially in student diplomacy, sport diplomacy and cultural tourism.

These should deepen Oz understanding of PNG.

As suggestions for the itinerary, I'll add my piece.

Roads that are just lines on maps, impassable. Schools with no facilities. Hospitals with no equipment. Airstrips which are no more.

Maybe a ride on the once road from Finschhafen (Gagidu) to Pindiu might be a good start?

I am sure that there are plenty of other roads to nowhere like that one nowdays.

Now that we have heard from young Peter Daniels and his trials on getting to Pindiu, he would be a good one to give Ms Julie Bishop a good tour?

Forget the hullaballo with Aussie footballers, Ms Bishop is up there on hopefully a fact finding tour.

Didn't we do a similar exercise for Richard Marles a while ago? Where is that list and what could Ms Bishop do with it that clearly Mr Marles didn't, or rather perhaps he did.

It should be remembered that Ms Bishop is in the opposition and not in the government. She can raise issues but cannot cause any action to happen.

If however after the next general election, her side wins government, this visit could be a good grounding for the future. She should use the opportunity to make some PNG friends and keep in touch with them.

My suggestion is for Ms Bishop to distance herself from the usual hangers on and get to know the real PNG people and their country.

That can't be done by just visiting Moresby or Lae. It also won't happen while ever any official representatives are pushing their own barrows.

- Meet the people who are trying to make a difference in health, education and law and order.

- Visit the general hospitals that don't have staff and drugs to treat the needy.

- Fly in to an isolated outstation and talk to the teachers and health workers who are still operating in the bush.

- Get an unbiased, non government minder to interpret and talk to the local police if you can find any, who don't have any resources and support.

- Get someone from your office to actually trace the paper trail of what happened to the millions of AusAID dollars and then actually physically checkout what it actually did for the people at the kunai roots?

But don't - whatever you do - ask the AusAID people to show you around.

You'll end up being 'snowed' like we all have been over the years when we have tried to actually get some traction with the Foreign Affairs Department and subsequent Ministers.

Good luck and, um, is there any chance we could have a look at your report card when you return?

Excellent work Keith. Ramp up the dialog. If Julie Bishop really will engage in consultation for ideas I await follow up "comments", using the facility you provide, from an officer in her office. Who is planning her schedule for the next visit? I am confident Attitude readers could suggest a "real" itinery of places to visit. I would nominate Simbu as a great start. I believe there is a cottage at the Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital, Kundiawa for accommodation. If she took Mal Maninga or Locky with her she would be given royalty treatment. You could also give her the directions to your old school. Better still a copy of the school newspaper for homework.

There are some good suggestions here Julie - and previous posters on this piece.

The governments of PNG/Autralia should take a page out of corporate PNG's book. Deloitte is a good example. They send PNG staff down to Australia and NZ and into the pacific regularly.

I'm a big supporter of two-way student exchange, particularly high-school exchanges. I have a large number of PNG friends who were selected on scholarship to board in Australia and NZ. Most of them are now in senior positions in PNG, Australia and NZ - and they still maintain close friendships with their host country mates!

Prince Charles is a good example of the above - he went to Oro province on a student exchange while in high school. And still remembers that experience like it happened yesterday.

Civil service swaps are also a good idea, and this has been in place in some form or another for some time. This can be improved though.

I think David Kitchnoge's suggestion that Australia helps support PNG's Task Force Sweep. A brilliant idea David.

Finally, I think there should be a programme in Parliament for Australian MPs to volunteer for a week or two to help out a provincial government in rural PNG. Get Australian decision makers out into the real PNG so they can really appreciate Papua New Guinea.

www.garamut.wordpress.com

Dear Miss Bishop - On behalf of the silent majority, I would like to say thank you for be for your visions and commitment towards PNG and giving hope back to us after Mr Carr’s threats.

However, as a writer, I wonder if anything could be done by the sudden blow by the Australian government to the Crocodile Prize Anthology for 2012?

Because as Keith Jackson has mentioned thousands of Papua New Guineans will not be able to read stories and poems written by their own writers due to a short-sighted decision by the Australian government not to provide funds for printing the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012.

As he wrote…‘The anthology is a unique compilation of the best writing in PNG, where a national literature is experiencing something of a revival after 35 years thanks to the initiation of the Crocodile Prize.’

This could be as your stepping stone in showing your commitment…

Is good what minister Bishop says. Public service twinning is for both ways I think and very good. Does it mean Australian public servants in our country?

Like what I read here so far.

An article by Keith Jackson a few days back was highly critical of Richard Marles for not delivering a commitment to ensure Australians are better informed about PNG people and issues.

Could Ms Bishop address whether she thinks this is important as Keith does and what would be her approach?

And I would have the same message for Bob Carr - he should he get off his backside and actually spend some time in PNG before mouthing off about 'sanctions'.

Dear Ms Bishop - The enterprise fund is an excellent initiative which aims to transfer our wealth from the macro to micro level and diversify our economy. Great to see it get a mention in your partnership plans for us.

Is there anything Australians can do to help firmly embed the activities of our first real anti corruption initiative: Task Force Sweep?

Training and support of our local anti corruption heroes in the areas of forensics, investigation of complex financial fraud, basic documentation & classification of evidence, and prosecution methods will be highly appreciated.

Dear Ms Bishop - You are to be commended for your committment to improving relationships between our two countries.

I especially applaud your proposed expansion of the student exchange scheme. Bear in mind that currently this is very one-way - PNG students come to Australia, but I am aware of very few Australian students who go to PNG.

For a full and fair exchange of ideas, experiences, knowledge and friendships, this should become a genuine two-way scheme.

Also remember that many PNG people are sceptical of Australia's past involvement in mining, oil and mineral extraction in PNG. We Aussies don't have a good track record. So some ground has to be made up here.

You could look at schemes to encourage small business opportunities for PNG people and empower women economically - as well as of course through helping provide better medical, social and educational services in remote areas.

You will have an uphill battle, as much trust has been lost and money wasted in the past. And too much of a hand-out mentality has been encouraged.

Remember if you are genuine and really manage to bring about local benefits and development opportunities for the average person (not the privileged few) then PNG people will be your friends for life. And you can claim to have helped achieve something long-lasting.

Its not about mining, or gas, or big exploitative projects - it's about the quality of life for my cousins, family and their kids. And of course everyone's.

Best of luck to you - but please don't make it just a party political thing. You are above that.

PS. And Julie, how about donating a few thousand to the Crocodile Prize Fund - to show your good faith?

I applaud Julie Bishop's intentions and initiative in actually visiting PNG and canvassing a range of inputs and views. However neither of the major Australian parties has a prior history to be proud of in terms of constructive engagement. To wit: the Howard era aloof and somewhat patriarchal in tone, the Rudd era superficial and publicity-oriented and in a way also slightly condescending, and the Gillard era, well go figure! The message to the latest wizard of Oz's foreign affairs is: "You're not in NSW now, Bob". Public grandstanding won't cut it in this environment. It's important also to talk to those who are not primarily trying to make money out of PNG but really acknowledge the importance of the special relationship between our two countries - very multifaceted, challenging but doable. In practical terms I'd like to see a radical but intelligible shift on assessment of aid, and a practical cooperative set of approaches on real, measurable improvements to the health system, demonstrated by real evidence ina CQI framework.

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