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01 February 2018


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It's interesting to speculate how PNG would be going now if it had not been inundated by the tidal wave of consultants following independence.

It's entirely possible it might have learnt to do everything for itself.

Wasn't that the idea behind independence anyway?

Australia's grand scheme to perpetually send "experts and consultants" to her aid recipients is clearly read for what it is.

'PNG rejects the Colombo Plan.' The Plan's photo ops of deeply enriching short-term experiences, conveniently being laid as foundations for the insanity of "eternal experts and consultants economy" such as this: will not wash with PNG.

Papua New Guinea desires to build her own capacity.
To that end, it will be advisable for her own scholars studying in Australia and in PNG universities to have internships in Australian institutions - say from six months to two years.

Under strict contractual arrangements, they should then be encouraged to return to PNG and other Pacific Island countries to help develop their countries. The current AusAid scholarship arrangement is devoid of such critical elements. It needs to be enhanced.

Such is a more sustainable and mutually beneficial arrangement that is pursued by the UK and the US governments with developing and third world countries.

Australia needs to cease thinking and laying out her plans, with the hollow assumption that the Pacific Islands countries are still stuck in the era where their parents and grandparents were prevented from reading and understanding the greater world of government and business out there.

The world has shifted - thanks to the advent of technology.

Gilbert Waghuaio Hamambi feels Australia has abrogated its responsibility when it comes to Rugby League!

He feels Australia is becoming chinaphobic. It is rapidly losing its influence in the region and especially in PNG.

GoPNG is leveraging on this strategic position in its dealings with these two powers.

If it weren't for rugby league, the PNG public would have known less or have little interest in Australia.

It is for Australia's geopolitical interest that its government should support PNG get a rugby league team quickly into the NRL.

But Australia has not abrogated her responsibility to PNG when it comes to education...

Today I just read about a PNG husband and wife graduating together in Advanced Computer Studies at a Queensland University. .. so they can go back to PNG and one said they want to use their computer skills to help solve problems e.g. in the medical supplies.

I guess this says a lot... Australia is still helping to educate PNG people. Other countries are also helping but maybe more is being done by Australia and New Zealand, which are both English speaking countries and have a long history in PNG.

I have found that these students who have lived for a few years in Australia have grown to appreciate the Australian way of life. They love the education system and have enjoyed sending their children to school in Australia.

If, for some reason or other, they end up spending a long time in Australia, then their children sometimes grow up thinking of themselves as Australians. This creates a dilemma.

Many Australian teachers and university lecturers who have been involved with teaching PNG people either in PNG or in Australia or in both countries, have often developed strong relationships with their former students.

Some of these teachers have even "adopted" their former students in various ways. Mixed- marriages have taken place and great life-long friendships have developed.

So, today I feel one of the most important aspects of the PNG-Australia relationship is to help with education.

There is a lady down at a university in Canberra who has been going to PNG to help promote the concept of Farm Teams. The training she provides is to help the small time village farming family to develop themselves into a well run small farming unit able to sustain themselves with food and with commercial activities to provide them with a cash income.

What a wonderful concept. Surely it is much better to allow the PNG people to develop their own commercial farms rather than for some overseas investor to be allowed to come in and set up some huge agricultural concern and employ the local people as their labourers.

I remember visiting similar types of farms in Fiji run by Indian farmers.

I'm sure there are other ways that Australia can help PNG, such as in trade, but I still feel Education is a very important way the two countries can work together and Australia can help PNG.

The Pacific people undoubtedly know and understand that Norway is miles away from our turf.


The Australian government, her conglomerates, educators, elites and social and media commentators have to fully understand about Norway's position and learn a little bit more about the Pacific victus.

Otherwise Australia will continue to echo, "there is some big water over there" kind of views, second guess and mount ineffectual parallel programs.

This was an emphatic view - communicated this week by one of the Pacific sons who is currently PNG's National Planning Minister & Development Minister.

About time to get started on reducing that cultural deficit mate because we're no way near Norway by any stretch of our imagination.

Tell me Peter, do you wash your feet with your socks on?.

Robin - on receiving news of one of our sisters' fifth pregnancy I half-humorously suggested that our gift to her should be a box of condoms. I was met with a stony silence.

Not an altogether surprising response, Peter - KJ

I agree with Barbara. It was with the Malaysians that corruption was introduced to PNG. It began when Ted Diro was Minister for Forests. PNG politicians couldn't help themselves and took to it like ducks to water. It was downhill all the way after that.

Not much is said in public regarding the aspirations of global leadership regarding the thorny side of population growth. Conflicting opinions abound concerning the outcomes of unimpeded growth.

It might be that select PNG thinkers harbor notions unfavorable to popular opinion but generally unnoticed amid the hubbub of daily voices.

In recent years, shifts in philosophy by Australian leadership regarding Pacific neighbors possibly mirror transitions to increasingly sophisticated understandings by those neighbors of global trends.

In essence, the neighbors now speak for themselves.

Despite the allure of playing in the "big leagues," there still remains a clear and present danger of toxic outcomes being visited on our friends by the unwitting assumption of all players that globalism will yield a return to pristine originality.

A new report from Patrick Wood highlights aspects of the outcomes arising from conceding to the thrust of agendas and issues affecting population studies:

In a delicious touch of irony, hundreds of top secret Australia cabinet documents have been found in two filing cabinets donated to a Canberra Op Shop which now has ASIO running around like headless chooks.

(Footnote - One of the more notable calls to 999 in the UK (000 in Australia, 911 in the US) was from a frustrated Essex girl who tried to call a taxi and said "I just want a cab - innit?" the operator put her in touch with a local furniture store.)

Australia was the colonial power that ran TPNG up to the day it became independent. There were some Australians who did speak, quite strongly, about the fact that they thought TPNG was not ready for Independence.

Somare realized this and for many years I'm sure he was determined to do things his way and many Australians, like myself, felt it was better to just let them get on with the job of getting themselves organised. For a time things went well but then slowly the troubles began.

There was the terrible Bougainville War and the bad name of Rio Tinto and the dreadful handling of the collapse of the tailings dam at the Ok Tedi mine and the withdrawal of BHP.

Somebody, Somare or Wingti, had this policy of Looking North and soon the Malaysians from Sarawak and Asians other places were soon into the country and realized ways to make a fortune.

Gradually we started to see a lot of corruption was taking place. PNG government workers were no longer following the procedures left to them by the Australians e.g. the calling for tenders was often done away with or not followed correctly. It appears that auditors were not called in to check everything and corruption became common.

Sam Koim pleaded for help but the Australians did not help much with the mounting litany of corruption.

Yesterday O'Neill held his Business Breakfast and from the photos I saw the place was full of Asian faces and few European. The Asians are keen to go into PNG to invest. The Chinese are pouring in everywhere just to run kai bars and trade stores and, of course, the stores that used to be run by the Old Chinese.

PNG people are still electing people to parliament who they like and these people are not necessarily the intelligencia. They feel these people will understand them. Many of the well-educated PNG people would now prefer to migrate to Australia or New Zealand.

I don't hear the PNG people crying out for help from Australia but secretly many would be happy to migrate here so they could get away from all the present problems in PNG.

There are still plenty of people in PNG today who are quick to condemn Australia and blame it for all the problems that they face today. There are so many people who have been born after 1975 and so many of my students from the 1970s and 1980s are dying young.

Some Australians are selflessly still working quietly away in PNG in many different fields and helping out in many different ways, and many PNG students apply for the annual Australia government scholarships to study in Australia. YWAM helps with its medical ships and ADI is working in a few provinces.

The huge Chinese loans are the great worry at the moment but one cheeky Chinese storekeeper in Wewak told me not to worry as if you look back in history you will see that the Chinese have never been a country that wants to set up colonies.

The Malaysians from Sarawak still take out the logs from the Sepik, East and West, from SABLs. The SABLs were banned but this ban has not been enforced and none of the present elected leaders seem to care nor want to do anything to stop them. The forests will probably be cleared. But isn't that what we did to the Atherton Tablelands so many years back.

By becoming an Aussie Sepik I have been accepted back on social media and thanked many times for helping them to understand the world today and to be able to discuss things in a logical, peaceful way and try to work out how all the many problems that they face can be solved.

They don't want the Australia government telling their government what to do to sort out their problems, but they don't mind Australians, who respect them, helping them to sort out their own problems in the PNG way.

While I agree with Phil that the main thrust of our previous paper was about PNG/Australian relations, it is an undeniable fact that PNG is the key to the Pacific and our relations with our next door neighbour gives a good indication of how Australia regards and is regarded by our Pacific community.

The issue I hoped to raise was that there are still a number of people who know something about PNG and yet are being purposely ignored in favour of seemingly more interesting and larger world issues.

How could we ever hope to be considered worth being a member of the Security Council when we can't even get our own relations with our close neighbours on a recognised and stable footing?

The disdain with which our PNG Attitude community has been treated when there is clearly a deficit in appropriate knowledge and good relations with PNG smacks of typical Canberran Ivory Towerism.

Paul refers to the PNG Attitude campaign to draw the Australian government's attention to PNG, rather than to the Pacific nations as a whole.

I think Australia probably pays more attention to PNG than the other Pacific nations but that attention is very scant and usually ill-informed.

I think PNG fits into another category altogether.

PNG is a nation blessed with rich resources and its state of development should by now be on a par with New Zealand. After Australia and New Zealand it should be the most successful nation in the South Pacific. Its people should be enjoying all the same kinds of privileges and standards of living as Australians and New Zealanders.

But it isn't?

Instead, it's on the way to becoming a basket case.

Whose fault is that?

I'm with Peter on this one ...

Veteran journo Paul Kelly has enunciated what we at PNG Attitude and elsewhere have been saying and writing for years.

In some perverse way, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has actually raised public profile of the Pacific even though her comments were unguarded and had to be hosed down by her senior Minister.

The major problem seems to be a clear deficit in understanding and working with Australia’s neighbours. Why is this so?

When I applied for a job many years ago I was asked a very direct and personal question: “Do you have a problem working with black people?” I was somewhat taken aback as it seemed that the interviewer had not read in my application detailing years of working, often alone with thousands of PNG people.

I instantly thought about the time I met up with some PNG mates in Sydney and some Africans publically lectured my PNG friends saying; “what are you doing hanging around this white boy?”

So I answered truthfully, “No, but they might have a problem working with me.”

The nub of the issue has been discussed on the Attitude ‘ad infinitum as nausium’. It all depends on what your experience has been as to what your perspective on life may have evolved.

The clear gap between those of us who have been trying to get a change in Australia’s Pacific policy and those who are responsible for producing the policy could not be more evident.

A number of concerned Attitude contributors of both sides of the Torres Strait previously compiled a well thought out paper edited by Keith Jackson. In good faith, this paper was forwarded to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. But answer came there none.

To look at the background of our so called leaders, the dearth of frontline experience in the Pacific is palpable. Australian politics are dominated by either the legal fraternity, who having learnt how to waffle, often head for conservative party benches.

Then there’s the union fraternity who presumably having had experience confronting ‘management’ naturally head for the Labor front bench. I’ll just leave out the Greens who appear to have a following from frustrated metropolitan adherents that for some reason believe they understand and know how to save the planet without actually being able to put into practice what they preach.

There now, have I got everyone’s attention?

There is a tangible and identifiable gap in experience and knowledge about our near neighbours. Given the closer involvement with Pacific nations, New Zealand often seems to achieve much better results with a lot less resources.

To the impartial observer, were there to be one, over the last few decades Australia has seemed to hover between an embarrassing cultural cringe and an unwillingness to engage in dialogue with Pacific nations on an equal basis. Given the stated background of our many of our political fraternity, is it any wonder that we seem to be on a path to nowhere?

Any worthwhile manager or leader knows only too well that effective management depends on co-operation and consultation. Yet, that is just what seems to be missing.

Are we to yet again suffer the results of inaction and myopia that led to the war in the Pacific in 1941 or are we able to learn from our mistakes?

Hello… is anyone in DFAT and the Minister listening?

As Paul notes, PNG Attitude through expert commentators like himself has been ahead of this game for quite some time. But will this new awareness lead to appropriate action? Hmmm - KJ

Kelly annoyingly conflates 10 island states in the south west corner of the Pacific with what he generalizes as "the Pacific".

Does he mean we should take a leading role in Chile, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand - all of which are Pacific states?

This is the same blinkered and flippant mentality which refers to PNG as simply "New Guinea" and claims Indonesia is our nearest neighbour.

And as for claiming that these ten nations are looking to Australia for leadership, maybe operating gulags in two of them for many years, bribing their leaders, treating sovereign governments with patronising contempt, ignoring climate changes while Kiribati and the Carterets are going under the waves, and turning a blind eye to blatant money laundering of ill-gotten gains in Australia; has led them to say "we've had enough Australia. You had your chance and you left us in the lurch. Maybe China's a better bet now."

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