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25 July 2018

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It also seems that Mutton Dutton and Julie Bishop have been actively undermining our relationship with New Zealand.

This has upset the acting Kiwi PM, Winston Peters, to the extent that he's suggesting our historical relationship is just about kaput.

Might have to wait until our planets realign before even considering a Pan-Pacific alliance.

Frank Jordan's assertion that the current scheme that allows people from the South Pacific to work in Australia's agricultural industries is a revival of the kanaka trade will no doubt resonate with some people.

Similarly, the idea of some form of free association between the Pacific and Australasian states will be attractive to many idealists.

However, to my mind he is merely playing the guilt card about Australia's lamentable past treatment of people of colour to justify his proposal without necessarily thinking through the logical consequences of what he is proposing.

First, let me say that I am instinctively attracted to the idea of a Confederation of Pacific and Australasian States along the lines of the European Union, but without some of its unattractive anti-democratic features.

However, there are some very real issues to be overcome before Australia and New Zealand could look seriously at this idea.

For example, it is fair to say that governance arrangements in many of the smaller Pacific countries leave much to be desired. As a consequence their public sector management of services like immigration, border control, quarantine, health, public finances and so forth is, typically, very patchy in terms of its probity, effectiveness and efficiency.

Sadly, there is much evidence of endemic corruption, incompetence and ineptitude being prevalent in these countries.

Unless and until these sometimes quite grave internal deficiencies can be brought to a manageable level it is inconceivable that either Australia or New Zealand could agree to something like the Schengen Agreement that governs movement within the European Union.

There also would be major problems in establishing mechanisms to determine equivalency between various trade and professional qualifications obtained in Pacific educational and training institutions and those awarded in Australia or New Zealand. These problems already exist with many European countries, India and even the USA.

The health status of prospective immigrants or workers would be an issue too. PNG now has endemic levels of HIV infection and well as a growing problem with Multi-Drug Resistant TB. I understand that there has been a resurgence in the incidence of diseases such as Leprosy as well.

I mention these things not because I don't like the idea of free movement but because there are very real and substantial issue that have to be addressed first.

Idealism and great ambition are a fine thing but, eventually, reality intrudes into the calculation.

We are a long way from where we need to be if a fundamentally worthy idea is very to become reality.

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