IN A SURPRISE DEVELOPMENT banned businessman Ross Garnaut has decided to spit the dummy and resign as chairman of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd instead of attempting to heal his rift with the Papua New Guinea government.
Last November, PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill issued an instruction preventing Professor Garnaut from entering the country.
O’Neill accused Garnaut of insulting the PNG leadership by saying that, given the accumulation of wealth in PNG, it was "tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development".
Earlier BHP Billiton, the original developer of Ok Tedi, had refused to comply with O'Neill's demand to renegotiate its agreement governing control of Ok Tedi's major shareholder, PNG Sustainable Development Ltd, a $1.4 billion trust set up for the benefit of Papua New Guineans.
Garnaut resigned as Ok Tedi chairman saying it was not possible for him to fulfil his responsibilities while the PNG government maintained its ban on his travel.
His resignation brings to an end to his last official role in PNG after an association of 47 years.
The downside for Peter O’Neill, and Australia, is that, at a time when the bilateral relationship has taken a turn for the better, as eminent a person as Ross Garnaut has virtually declared the current PNG government is not worth dealing with.
It is a sad, and unnecessary, outcome for all parties.