PAPUA New Guinea may have once been regarded as a ‘colony’ of Australia but a lot of people seem to forget that Australia itself was once a colony - in the true sense of the word.
Like Papua New Guinea, and unlike many other colonies, Australia made the transition to independence peacefully.
It seems that without some sort of struggle for independence many ex-colonies come of age retaining a strong sense of cultural and national inferiority.
Despite the brashness and faux macho of its citizens I think this is the case with Australia.
It seems to still be a country in awe of its more powerful neighbours and allies like Britain and the USA and as a result adopts a very timid stance in terms of its international relations.
This might explain why we failed to object to the Indonesian invasion of West Papua, why we only went into East Timor when the USA threatened us and why we meekly send soldiers to the Middle East even though there is no strategic relevance to us at all.
If this is true we might now want to add our failure to utter any word of protest about the hijacking and subversion of the democratic electoral process in our nearest neighbour and reputed friend, Papua New Guinea.
There is an increasing shame among many Australians about these sorts of failures and the apparently spineless attitude of our government.
For some this is an added burden to the shame they already feel about our nation’s treatment of refugees.
In terms of the Papua New Guinean election I have absolutely no doubt that a strongly worded statement by our prime minister, or even our foreign minister, would have had a positive impact on the way the elections were conducted and even the way people voted.
Some Papua New Guineans would have been indignant about such interference, especially if they had a vested interest in the status quo, but the majority would have taken heed and perhaps re-thought what was happening.
At the very least it would have been an indication that Australian cared about what was going on.
And for those who argue that Australia doesn’t actually care I would point out that such a view is extraordinarily naïve. Even if it doesn’t exercise the minds of our politicians and citizens, Papua New Guinea constantly occupies the minds of our intelligence and security communities.
The lack of such a statement no doubt also emboldened the corrupt politicians and officials in Papua New Guinea to increase their blatant abuse of the electoral process. How else can you explain the simplistic and childish antics we witnessed?
And just as what happens in Australia creates ripples throughout the whole region, what happens in Papua New Guinea does too.
Those corrupt politicians in Vanuatu and the Solomons, for instance, have probably been watching what has been going on in Papua New Guinea with great interest.
They are, no doubt, thinking that if such obvious democratic malfeasance can occur in Papua New Guinea without Australia or anyone else saying a word they’ve got a pretty good chance of pulling off the same kind of stunt in their own countries.
Australia’s silence about the Papua New Guinean elections has therefore contributed to the de-stabilisation of the region.
As Chris Overland and others have pointed out, there is a great upheaval in the old world order in full train almost everywhere at the moment. Some of our own politicians have already begun to channel this sense of unrest.
If we don’t want more of it to spread to our own region we need upright and morally strong leadership.
At the moment that is sadly lacking.