AS PNG Attitude readers are well aware, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is visiting Papua New Guinea at present.
You might have expected him to bring leading tropical health experts, or aid representatives, or even a pastor or two. But no, it's wall-to-wall businessmen (men being the operative word).
And Rupert Murdoch's The Australian has suddenly rediscovered PNG. It's all about business and asylum-seekers - and both are about money.
"Deepening our economic ties will be a key focus of my visit," Mr Abbott said.
But Stephen Howes of the Australian National University got down to the nitty-gritty: money, and how to use it to bend PNG to Abbott's will.
"Our [Australia’s] overriding objective with regard to PNG is now simply to have them on our side. It is impossible to run a $500 million aid program effectively in a country as difficult as PNG without leverage, and it is showing....
“Here are four issues that should be discussed by the two prime ministers but probably won’t be… "
Prof Howes goes on to discuss the sovereign wealth fund, the scandal of the pharmaceutical supplies, the exile of Dr Schram, and the Ok Tedi debacle.
You can read more here if you have the stomach. The basic position is that Australia needs PNG to extinguish its biggest political problem (asylum seekers) and PNG needs Australia to remain mute and uninvolved about some bad bits of its public policy, even where they affect Australia.
That's about the level of coverage PNG gets in the Australian media - unless a few more witches are burned. Or Manus goes up in flames.
TONY Abbot is trying to clean up the asylum boat mess that Rudd and the Labor Party left behind and is now in PNG to consult with Peter O'Neill on how to solve the problem with a very limited range of options, one of which is to seek permanent settlement in PNG for those already there and others on their way.
There are many problems associated with this.
Of great importance is the lack of availability of land for resettlement. The PNG government owns only 3.5% of the land mass, the rest is private customary land owned by tribes and clans of Papua New Guineans since time began. It is their only heritage, it is guarded jealously and many will die for it in cases of dispute.
There is no government old age pension nor unemployment welfare in PNG. People don't starve, however, because of a ubiquitous and mostly workable ‘wantok system’ where people of the same language group or who are closely related are looked after at a subsistence level.
The Labor Government set a precedent by embracing boat people at great expense to the Australian taxpayer and with access to lawyers, high quality medical attention, decent accommodation and a bleeding heart mentality, all of which was readily accepted and capitalised on.
Papua New Guineans don't live with a quality education system, nor quality health services, nor a decently maintained road network, nor reliable employment. Many high profile people, or those with money, including politicians, opt for medical treatment in Australia or Singapore rather than a hospital in PNG.
Now, here is the dilemma that faces Tony Abbott and Peter O'Neill if they agree to settle asylum seekers in PNG. The government doesn't own the land.
Papua New Guineans are highly unlikely to give the land to refugees. The only sensible alternative would be to lease land for 10 or 20 years for an agreed payment and, at the end of the lease, land and improvements revert to the original landowner. This already happens in PNG on a small scale.
So, a refugee ends up with a piece of land. Who pays for it? Does Australia build a house? PNG won’t, nor should they, the refugees are Australia's problem.
Refugees aren’t part of the wantok system so how do theye survive in a country where there is not enough paid work for even Papua New Guineans>
Does Australia create discontent and resentment in PNG by giving them the dole, or a pension that will permit them to live to a higher standard than the neighbouring people.
Does Australia create a divide among the inhabitants of PNG by providing top quality medical care to refugees while excluding Papua New Guineans?
So what’s the solution?
To me, it’s deportation to where the asylum seekers came from if there is even the faintest hint that they are financial refugees.