What criticism we do level at our own government with respect to Papua New Guinea is focused on their inept handling of the relationship between the two separate and sovereign nations.
Apart from that we are critical of the plundering activities of Australian resource developers in Papua New Guinea.
However, the major basis of our concerns is what we perceive to be the failure of successive Papuan New Guinean governments to fulfil the promises of 1975. Apart from the politicians there is seldom criticism of the Papua New Guinean people.
In fact, the pages of PNG Attitude are loaded with contributions extolling ordinary citizens. In simple terms, we comment because we want to help. Perhaps we should be more aware of the sovereign nature of our relationship.
Most of the advice and criticism stems from a genuine concern about Papua New Guinea and its people, although there is also a significant element of cynicism from the ‘I told you so’ brigade.
The concern stems from past or current associations with Papua New Guinea. Often the commentators left Papua New Guinea close to or shortly after 1975 and haven’t been back since. There is a feeling that these people, no matter how genuine their concern, are not really qualified to offer advice because things have changed so much.
And, dare I say it some of the regular Australian contributors do tend to sound a tad patronising from time to time. I wouldn’t exclude myself from this charge. One can only imagine some of the comments that Keith refuses to publish.
However, with all the information now available on social media, this point may not be so relevant anymore; in this era of information overload we all offer advice on other countries that we’ve never visited and on topics for which we have no first-hand experience.
As watchers of Papua New Guinea, these old timers see trends developing that are worrying and they have difficulty not voicing their opinions. The most recent events surrounding the persecution of ‘witches’, the rise of Christian fundamentalism and the problem with the supply of safe drugs are cases in point.
The aim of PNG Attitude is to foster and facilitate the relationship between Australians and Papua New Guineans and it does a very good job in this respect, perhaps more so than any other blog on the web. It is a very effective counter balance to the poor state of Australian media reporting on Papua New Guinea.
However, one can’t help feeling that the balance of comment, although vastly improved in recent years, is still a little bit one-sided. That is, we talk much more about what’s going on in Papua New Guinea than we do about what Australia is doing, especially where it has an impact on Papua New Guinea.
Sometimes I can’t help thinking that our comments are akin to a family discussing what the rowdy next door neighbours are doing without realising that our prissy attitude is just as bad as the antics of the unruly Joneses.
Papua New Guineans are generally not wont to criticise their friends and wantoks. This is a topic much discussed on PNG Attitude and I think the consensus is that it has its roots in the communistic nature of traditional Papua New Guinean society. It would be nice sometimes if this were not the case.
Australia continues to make mistakes in its dealings with Papua New Guinea and some of those mistakes are stupid and poorly thought out. We also take advantage of Papua New Guinea and ride roughshod over its sensibilities. These things need to be highlighted, not by those few concerned Australians but by Papua New Guineans themselves.
Australia as a dispenser of ‘wisdom’ and Papua New Guinea as a compliant receiver is not a healthy position in any debate. What we need is more comment about what is going on in Australia by Papua New Guineans.
Of any country in the world qualified to criticise Australia Papua New Guinea must be at the forefront, perhaps more so than Indonesia. It also has the resources to do the job.
Not only does Papua New Guinea receive Australian media, especially television, its citizens are frequent visitors to the country. It is indisputable that Papua New Guineans know more about Australia than Australians know about Papua New Guinea.
Contrary to what many people think, well measured criticism results in respect. Indonesia’s criticism of Australian spying and the treatment of refugees have engendered a greater respect of Indonesians among Australians. Indonesia has demonstrated that it is not prepared to be bullied by an ill-informed reactionary, racist and arrogant Australian government.
If Papua New Guinea ramped up its criticism of Australia it would earn the same sort of respect. The mirror that would be offered might be very educational indeed. And, of course, one of the best places to do this is in the pages of the widely-read PNG Attitude.