TUMBY BAY - I’m back in my quiet little corner of South Australia after spending a couple of weeks meandering through the hustle and bustle of Queensland’s south-east coast.
There was a burst of unseasonal hot weather up there, so stepping off the plane in Adelaide on the way home was a bit like jumping into a freezer. But I think I’ll survive.
In Queensland I attended the successful Papua New Guinean women writer’s event at Coolum Beach and learned a lot about the travails of being a woman in PNG, especially those women who produce ground-breaking anthologies of women’s writing. (Some of those women are on stage with me in the accompanying photograph.)
To say that the anthology My Walk to Equality has been both a great success and a tremendous burden for the women involved is an understatement.
I can confidently and sadly assure people that crude, rude, nasty and jealous men (and some women) are in no danger of being in short supply in Papua New Guinea.
Learning the details of that sorry fact was a bit of a downside during my perambulations.
Dropping in here and there to catch up with old friends who had worked in PNG and continue to have contact with the place was equally dispiriting.
Among these people I detected a level of despondency about the situation in PNG that I haven’t encountered before.
There has always been a jocular view that Papua New Guinea is, well, just Papua New Guinea, and things don’t work as well there as they do elsewhere.
At the same time it was expected that the Papua New Guinean people would somehow always muddle through.
I’m not sure this is the case anymore – people still believe in the muddle theory but the affectionate regard for PNG among Australians who are close to it seems to have been replaced by a feeling that things have tipped over the edge and plunged into a deep chasm.
The recent election, it appears, is the episode that broke the camel’s back.
So deeply has that event been seen to plumb the depths of corruption, mismanagement and criminality that all hope for even a muddling solution is believed to be lost.
PNG is seen as having been plunged into irretrievable debt by a group of inept and ravenous politicians to the extent that pulling it out of that quagmire seems an impossible task.
My friends’ response when I mention Papua New Guinea is now confined to a sad shrug. “I’ve decided to forget about it and get on with more important things,” they say.
This profound sense of pessimism is worrying.
It seems it is only our deluded and conspiratorial politicians in Australia who exhibit any sense of optimism.
It’s hard to believe that they are still giving currency to the same old promises that Peter O’Neill is sprouting after years of never honouring them or having any intention to honour them.
If you believe my friends in Queensland, Papua New Guinea is stuffed.
The only hope of saving it will have to be something radical.
The sad thing is that everyone knows what needs to be done but no one is game to try.
So maybe it’s time for all those big-headed men to start listening to their women. Maybe it’s time to have a series of by elections and bring in those 22 women’s seats.
But, then again, given how Papua New Guinean men treat their successful women, who would wish such poisonous approbation on that fair sex.