MY WIFE and I have been travelling south from Hervey Bay in Queensland, visiting in-laws and sundry relatives and catching up on the way of the world to make sure we aren’t missing out on anything important.
It’s been a sobering experience.
What we discovered going on is a kind of ‘development’ osmosis. The Gold Coast and all of the ticky-tacky bad taste it stands for has been seeping north and has more or less spread its big blots to the coast and hinterland not far south of where we now call home.
Brisbane went under years ago and we thought it might have stopped there but that was a false hope.
We stayed one night in Maroochydore, for instance, and our resident relative took us to the local shopping mall.
This Besser block monstrosity is built on about 17 levels, each about 20 acres in extent. Somehow they’ve contrived to run a river through the whole thing. There would be several hundred shops on each level, evenly divided between women’s clothing and shoe shops and coffee shops.
As I understand it all the clothes in Australia are made by a little old lady in China. Now, apparently the demand is such that they’ve had to employ another little old lady in Bangladesh.
For my wife it was a kind of heavenly experience; for me it was like landing in hell.
After I spent several hours trying to find my way out of the car park, we pottered up to Montville and Maleny in the nearby Blackall Ranges, once the haunt of desperate bushrangers.
It is pretty country but the picturesque hamlets once filled with artisans, crafts people, art galleries, bookshops and other pleasant fare are all gone, where I don’t know.
Now all the cute crafty shops sell junk made in China and Indonesia. Stuff you can get in two-dollar shops, in the Blackall Ranges they sell for big bucks.
This creeping morass of unfettered irrelevance now underpins the economies of most western countries. If the women in those places decided to wear the same clothes more than twice before replacing them and teenagers stopped updating their mobile phones every few weeks, those countries’ economies would crash.
For some reason all this reminded me of Port Moresby and what’s currently going on there. It seems to me that a sneaky little rootlet has crept north under the sea from the Gold Coast and popped up in Mosbi and is now spreading this same kind of pungent irrelevance by the same sort of rabid osmosis.
It is carving up Paga Hill, slowly filling up Fairfax Harbour, spiralling into the sky in Waigani and will soon creep into the sea off Ela Beach.
I can see it won’t be long before Mosbi is full of Big Ws, Targets, K Marts, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chickens and all the other trashy junk markets that we now take for granted in Australia.
Take my word for it; you don’t need any of it.
What you need are decent hospitals, good schools, clean water, reliable electricity and plenty to eat.
That APEC thing the PNG government is going to build on a sandbar off Ela Beach is the thin edge of the wedge.
Legalising prostitution in time for the confab in 2018 is another ominous sign. The brothel owners in Australia are rubbing their hands and packing their suitcases as we speak.
It won’t be long before Mosbi women are buying Chinese and Bangladesh-made bilums and sending their school kids to McDonalds for breakfast like they do in Maroochydore.
And then it will begin creeping over the Owen Stanleys to Lae, up the Highlands Highway and down to Madang and Wewak.