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24 May 2017

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The almost total intransigence that seems to pervade today's Australian political leaders in regard to PNG and her people is hard to understand. Hard to understand that is until you start digging below the surface to see what Australians are being told about PNG by our media and therefore, most political leaders.

When Julia Gillard called for consultation about the Australian school curriculum I raised PNG and her people and our shared history as an essential part that must be included. That suggestion was ignored.

When I suggested that PNG Tok Pisin (Melanesian) be taught in schools along side Indonesian I was dismissed as a nuisance. It was suggested I approach the local Schools all of which when I did have not been interested as they say they have too much in the current curriculum already and are therefore too busy.

When the PNGAA wanted to promote school scholarships for PNG students raising our shared history they were dismissed in obvious favour of Indonesian scholarships.

Yet PNG continues to be our greatest recipient of overseas aid? Of course some of that aid is to pay for the toothless police presence.

Many have tried and will still try to break through this seemingly intransigent attitude. Perhaps it originates in the Departments and filters upwards or perhaps it filters down from the current political leaders?

It's the sort of attitude that leads to a total breakdown in international relations yet when that happens, seemingly and inexplicably then leads to lame excuses to cover up a previous lack of foresight and an entrenched political deafness.

Of course it's easy for Sir Mekere and Don Polye to criticize Malcolm Turnbull's visit but what are they doing to promote their nation in Australia? Clearly it is in Peter O'Neill's interests and that of the team he leads to keep any internal matters a secret and in house. Why would they want the Australian taxpayer to know anything about what they are doing?

Faults lie on both sides of the Torres Straight and a new approach is needed to dissolve this clear information barrier.

Thanks Keith, for a well written and thoughtful appraisal of the PNG-Australia relationship.

I doubt if we need a northern shield! We have Indonesia as our northern neighbour and we have had to learn how to relate to her. Papua New Guinea is now an independent country and although we offer aid it is independent and we have to learn how to relate to her as well on a similar basis.

At the moment, while the Australian men and women, who worked for much of their lives in PNG, are still alive, there will be strong bonds between some Australians and some PNG people. But, as we die off, that will probably change and Australia will have relationships with PNG similar to what we have with Indonesia.

Any neighbour can become a source of threat to you if you don't work at retaining good relationships with that neighbour. That is why all these conferences like APEC need to continue. The more we all talk to each other the quicker we can work out the answers to any problems that may develop.

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