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12 May 2014


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Radio New Zealand International have a piece about the Torres Strait route for asylum seekers, and quote from one authoritative source (well done KJ!).

Reilly, good question re media. Phil pretty much nails it. It really isn't easy getting people on Manus to talk, especially if you're talking on a phone to them from hundreds of kilometres.

As he says, Post-Courier and the other two would ideally have had people on the ground.

But the people in charge know that won't do.

I would add that the government of Nauru, the site of the other big asylum seeker processing centre, has done everything it can (or is told to do) to ward off journalists from going there to see how things are run, such as hiking journalist visa fees some 400 percent to 8000 AUS dollars.

KJ, good to see you're the new Manus stringer for RNZI.

You'll be out of a job soon, Johnny - KJ

PNG is not a welfare state like Australia or the Nordic countries. PNGians are loyal to their land, tribe and heritage because that is the only social protection empirically visible. Resettling them in PNG is almost impossible.

If you fly over the central cordillera or the Baimuru swamps and think this lands is terra nullius, ah, cardinal sin. As soon as you set foot their you will be met by swarm of barbed arrows. They live many kilometres away but they know who owns which of this vast forest or swamps.

Whoever proposed the idea of resettlement in PNG can give his or her father's land to them and he can pack up and go live in the sky or maybe Grand Papua.

None of the asylum seekers are going to escape from Manus Peter. Rather, they will ask to be resettled in Daru or Kerema. Maybe the Gulf and Western Provinces should be thinking about contingency plans?

The Manus people are adamant that they don't want any asylum seekers resettled on their island. It will be interesting to see whether they have any choice in the matter.

Plans are also currently afoot to allow some of the asylum seekers to work in the local community on community projects. That will be an interesting litmus test.

Maybe using drones is the best option.

After watching Malcolm Turnbull's interview on BBC's Hard Talk last week. I am of the opinion that Australia is using the Manus Island detention center as a deterrence strategy.

If you know that you will be shipped off to a wayward country, why bother jumping on a boat if your reason for seeking asylum is not genuine. That is the message I got from Turnbull's interview.

From a government to government level, it is a win-win situation. Australia scratches PNG's back and the other way around. Dah dee dah and everyone is happy...

However, what about public opinion in PNG? What do the public think about resettlement and their job opportunities? Public opinion is a very important factor when formulating any policy.

The opinion of the public in PNG was not consulted and measured before the Howard regime came up with the initial plan to process asylum seekers in PNG. Again the Rudd regime did not consider public opinion before initiating the reopening.

Because public opinion does not influence the ballot in PNG, it has no weight in changing a decision. Will the O'Neill regime suffer defeat at the polls come 2017 because of the asylum deal?

No doubt quite a few people have guessed who is writing these articles on Manus.

One of the reasons for siting the detention centre on Manus is because there is already a big, largely unused, facility there in the form of the Lombrum Naval Base.

The second reason is that Manus is remote and it's bloody difficult to know what's going on there without actually visiting it. This is especially so for journalists.

Both the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments have gone out of their way not to keep people informed. Worse still, this secrecy was extended to the Manus Island people themselves.

G4S kept the place off-limits to everyone except the locals they employed. Both MPs from Manus, apart from an initial bleat about not getting all the goodies they were promised, have complied with their political masters in Moresby.

Thankfully the new operator has seen the need to at least talk to the locals. A very successful public forum was held at Loniu Village on Los Negros last Friday. If you read the minutes it becomes obvious that even the basics had to be explained.

Both the National and the P-C need to have stringers (locals who will write stuff for them) on the island. The NBC has a radio station in Lorengau and it needs to get involved too. All three should have had people at the Friday meeting; it was advertised well in advance.

Yesterday, in lieu of our Manus correspondent, I was interviewed by Radio New Zealand and 4MW Torres Strait about asylum seekers pouring across that narrow stretch of water. I said they should speak to Scott Morrison but they preferred me. I think I performed quite well - KJ

I still have this question in mind every time I read an article on the Manus regional processing centre. Why is that most of the articles are a single voice and rarely do I come across the people's voice being attributed.

Political views seems to invade the media with censorship. It wouldn't be wrong to suggest if propaganda exists in the matter.

Another impression media reporting gives me is that the people are not fully made aware of the implications associated with the issue. Thus they can't comment on it either.

What could have been the cause? Media censorship or merely ignorance.

Once upon a time Papua was an Australian territory. There's even a point on a star in the Australian flag to recognise this.

Then came the white Australia policy and the banning of Pacific Islanders from becoming indentured labour (intended to stamp out blackbirding), then came WW2.

But there were some half-hearted expectations that Papua could still be part of Australia.

Citizenship was even hinted at - like that given to those wild white men in the Northern Territory and ACT (although that didn't include Aborigines at the time).

But eventually independence came for PNG. So what to do about Papua and the Torres Strait Islands? They'd traded, travelled and communicated with each other for thousands of years, which Australia couldn't ignore, so the Torres Strait Treaty was devised.

The TI people were asked whether they wanted to be part of the new PNG, or Australia. They chose the latter, so the craziest international maritime boundary of all time was created (apart perhaps from Gibraltar), whereby Australian territory comes to within 2 km of PNG - a bit like New Zealand claiming Moreton Island.

The Torres Strait Treaty allows free movement between the two countries for 'traditional activities'. This doesn't now appear to extend to seeking help if you have TB or Malaria.

But it is still a grey area. Might some of those wicked asylum seekers escape from Manus, make their way across the Kokoda track and find a way to Saibai or Boigu or Dauan?

What can Australia do? Other than to repeal the Torres Strait treaty, station a few thousand Border Force personnel there and catch the buggers before they make it to Lakemba or Frankston?

Maybe killer drones are the answer. Or the Special Services Quoll Squad Border Force.

The problem is entirely of Australia's own making, and no number of million dollar helicopter flights by Scott (speaking in tongues) Morrison is going to solve it.

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