Puppets and puppeteers and the need for a true leader
Seeds of conquest

About time Australia saw PNG as more than a vassal


The bully of the SW PacificIT'S WAY PAST TIME  that Australia stopped taking Papua New Guinea for granted, and throwing in a dash of patronisation to go along with it.

Our story yesterday (PNG allows Australia to use Manus; Oz will still lecture) provided a taste of how this works when Julia Gillard announced the opening of an asylum seeker centre in Manus.

And than added, with almost studied gratuitousness, that Australia will continue to feel free to comment on domestic political events in PNG.

To understand the offence this causes PNG, with its concomitant relational damage, just ask yourself: would Julia make the same comment about the USA, or Indonesia or even New Zealand?

PNG's distinguished high commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani, has told today’s The Australian newspaper (PNG wants to see the finances before giving go-ahead) that Gillard acted prematurely when announcing the Manus facility, warning that PNG did not want to be seen as "a little brother of Australia".

I think the high commissioner was too kind – Australia’s mankimasta would be my expression.

Mr Lepani told The Australian PNG was a "sovereign" country and that Gillard's calls for early action were "a little premature".

"We need official formalities to be entered into - discussions for what it is they want to have put in place," he said.

Asked about PNG's expectations regarding compensation, Mr Lepani said: "The national government and the Manus provincial government will then enter into discussions about what is required (compensation) before anything is agreed to."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is sending two senior diplomats to Port Moresby this weekend to discuss a framework agreement for reopening Manus.

Let’s hope PNG drives a hard bargain – and insists that future declarations by the Australian government pay the due courtesies to PNG as an independent, not a vassal, state.


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David Kitchnoge

I just don't like the inferred message of this whole thing.

What is Australia saying to the rest of the world by sending people up here? That it has a huge plonk up north where it dumps all its discards and rejects?

What is the message about us that Australia wants to tell the world? That “O you can attempt to come to Australia but we are going to send you to a shitty place up north when we catch you. You know, you don’t really wanna be thrown into a dump”.

We are not your Baruni or Second Seventh dump, thankyou.

I urge all PNG leaders to reject this deal and not even try to reconsider it ever again. I loathe its message completely.

Australia must find a dumping ground within Australia to hold its rejects.

Robin Mead

Perhaps something in her background says she doesn't need to check/consult prior to making lofty pronouncements.

Something in common incidentally with 'machine' politics and also (shock, horror) tabloid journalism. Get the story out, check the details later..

David Kitchnoge

Well said Keith.

HE Charles Lepani is on the right track.

Julia and co can hold onto your tents and wait until PNG is happy with the arrangements.

Your boomerang aid doesn't buy you the right to push your agenda on us, including having the "freedom" to comment on our domestic political events.

Nick Piakal

"...just ask yourself: would Julia make the same comment about the USA, or Indonesia or even New Zealand?"
Very valid point indeed.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe all Australian Prime Ministers since 1975 have paid official visits to PNG within the first few months of taking office. (Heck, Bob Hawk even spoke to me when he visited Mt Hagen a while back (Yeah, you go Bob! Whoo hoo).

But Julia Gillard has not for once set foot on PNG soil since she took office.

Even though this point may be deemed somewhat inconsequential, it goes a long way at the impressions stakes and boosts confidence in bilateral relations as well as in the general perception of people.

So for an issue as crucial as offshore processing centres, it would do Julia and the Australian government good to meet with the PNG Prime Minister to discuss this instead of sending over her foot soldiers.

And who knows? As an added bonus, some lucky baby in Eastern Highlands somewhere might get to be named Julia Gillard even.

Harry Topham

One Sunday when I was a young kiap in the wilds of Talasea, I was instructed by my boss to go down to the local Kalabus to investigate the alleged mass escape of all the 60 odd prisoners ensconced there.

Yes when I got there the place was empty with the gates left open.

In company with the local police we made further enquiries with one of the residents there whereby we were told that the warders had decided to take the lads out for a bit of R&R fishing.

Was probably a good idea showing initiative but failing in communication as they had not told the boss of their plans.

What’s this got to do the issue raised by Keith, not much really apart from showing the ingenuity of human beings and how miscommunications can cause unforeseen calamitous outcomes?

Now we have big brother uncle Ozzie asking their little kantri brother PNG if they could look after some interlopers who have gatecrashed the party without any indications of the possible ramifications that may arise.

Good pragmatic politics in play, as the immediate perceived problem is then shifted out of sight and out of mind.

From memory when this approach was originally instigated most of those refugee detainees were then later given residential status after serving their penance for being interlopers and queue jumpers.

A more worrying aspect of this strategy was the resentment that arose among the Manus Islanders themselves who were some what miffed by the preferential treatment afforded to the detainees who in their eyes had a better standard of living to the poor and somewhat neglected villagers.

Although somewhat misguided in thought and completely bereft of humanity, this recent move by the Australian Government in dealing with these so called miscreants could quite strangely have positive results for all those involved if those in charge took a more lateral and benevolent approach to the issues involved.

The large injection of capital expenditure involved could have benefits to the local economy if the local population was given the opportunity for employment and provision of goods and services although most of the monies involved will more likely go towards paying for the airfares and accommodation of expatriates lawyers and “expert staff” as they shuffle back and forward between Australia and Manus to visit their clients.

Another issue, which will no doubtably be overlooked, is rather than simply incarcerating those found guilty of trespassing allow them to make some form of contribution to the local community through local interaction and possibly even community work.

Such altruism would then show the true character of their commitment of becoming good Aussies, perhaps?

Mrs Barbara Short

I just wish Julia would call the country Papua New Guinea, not PNG.

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