My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 02/2006

« ‘Montevideo Maru’ – Australia’s biggest maritime tragedy | Main | ‘If Australia fails to listen to PNG, we won’t have a good outcome’ »

03 July 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A part of me wants to believe that Australia wants the best for PNG.

I think the Australians that lived and worked in PNG 30-40 years ago are very different to the expatriates loving and working in PNG today.

The old timers wanted to be a part of something - contributing to the development of a young country. The new breed of expatriates are there for monetary gain.

Frankly I do not think any Aussie would want to see New Guinea fail. There are many reasons.

We are Australia's closest neighbour and, on a people to people basis, some very friendly ties exist; we're an important trading partner; the two countries were drawn closer together after the experiences of WW2.

And since then, PNG has been Australia's most important foreign policy issue due to the presence of Indonesia and more importantly I think is that PNG was the first and only colony of Australia.

Therefore I feel that despite all the rubbish going on in this country, Australians do have a soft spot for New Guinea.

Certainly my friends and I at Simbu Writers Association think of Australia as our most important and most friendly neighbour.

Also at the official level, the pull out in 1975 and early nurturing for future nationhood of PNG is something that Canberra should be weary of as its young leadership turns new pages.

Tanya Zeriga Alone is attributing to the inhabitants of Canberra a great deal more capacity for Machiavellian thinking than has hitherto been demonstrated.

Linking the New Colombo Plan with the idea of creating a cadre of consultants (latter day kiaps?) to run PNG is stretching credulity to breaking point.

It implies a level of insight and forward planning within the Federal government in relation to PNG that experience to date suggests simply doesn't exist.

Also, Tanya is ignoring the horrendous transaction costs that always come with trying to resurrect a failed state. The Solomon Islands intervention is a great example of this problem. Better to keep PNG limping along than standing back and allowing it to collapse.

Similarly, business never likes civil disruption of the type that accompanies failed states. It likes stability and certainty, not anarchy, so is unlikely to be hoping that PNG tanks.

At worst, some in the business community may be hoping for a powerful, authoritarian regime to emerge such as that which Frank Bainimarama created in Fiji for a long period. I cannot see such a regime emerging in such a heterogeneous country.

As for the great Australian public, they are busy worrying about paying of the credit card or mortgage, so events in PNG remain a very faint blip on the radar for them.

I think that Tanya, when considering Australia's approach to PNG issues, should remember the old adage that you should never suspect a conspiracy when a stuff up is a perfectly adequate explanation.

Of course Canberra wants PNG to fail. PNG is more useful to Canberra as a failed former colony than a big powerful brother to the Pacific. O'Neill is clearly playing Canberra by getting into bed with China.

Canberra was already planning for that day. You don't believe me - then explain the Colombo Plan. Is it not forward planning by Canberra to ensure consultants will be available to run PNG when it becomes a failed state.

Australians in general - it depends. Business people want PNG to fail so they can still have a big market for their products. The rest couldn't care less about kanaka problems.

Many of us ex-kiaps were the ones entrusted with the carriage of political education to the villagers whilst on patrol.

I've been reading some old patrol reports from the various Provinces and the comments are all similar as the reports pass the different levels of command.

The patrolling officer will state lack of comprehension in the village areas and more time is required. This will be generally supported by the Assistant District Commissioners as each report is passed up the line.

The District Commissioner will question the time spent in villages and the manner the message is imparted. The final response from the Department HQ in distant Port Moresby is that political education is an important and continuing task.

The rapid announcements of the road to Independence made many of us make the statement that the bulk of the people were not ready. So we were wary about the likely success of this march.

It's not that we want Papua New Guinea as an institution to fail because it means that we who were at the coal face have also failed.

However, I think the point being made is that there will be many who will say, "I told you so!"

Currently visiting the UK and Ireland it is very obvious that the tensions and old alliances and histories are entirely tribal based. As a species we are inherently tribal based since that is what allowed us to develop, survive and multiply. The world Cup is a classic example of national tribalism that allows the media a constant 'beat ups' every news bulletin.

Those who denigrate PNG tribalism are way off line and only reflect their own lack of appreciation of us as a human species.

PNG has a lot going for it and we, lapun as we are, still remember how with ethical and interactive leadership found that the PNG people could achieve anything they set their mind to. That is the issue we as a fraternity find so hard to accept given the apparent lack of effective leadership that now seems to be the norm wherever you go,

Why this is so remains a mystery and only gives rise to the expectation that it takes an external threat to actually bring people together into a cohesive unit that goes on to achieve great things.

The sum of the total is therefore greater than the sum of the individual units. All that is required is motivation, inspiration and leadership.

Brexit is the theme of almost every news item over in Europe until the topic gets onto to football (soccer) and the World Cup in Russia. The EU and Britain are currently arguing about their relative positions and advantages and how to get the best deal while Russia (Putin) is in the background rubbing it's hands in glee. Meanwhile Trump is expected to come over and play golf!

The similarities of Europe in 1914 are so painfully evident at the moment. European nations are polarising with instability and the potential for war apparently being ignored in favour of World Cup fervor.

So much for learning from our past mistakes. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

I don't think that informed Australians, especially those with some experience in the country, want PNG to fail Noel.

As Chris points out, the kiap fraternity especially don't want it to fail because of (a) their regard for the people and (b) it is ultimately a reflection of the work they did prior to independence.

Matt's observation that retired kiaps believe that nothing has gone right since 1975 is not a wish for failure but a frustration at the lack of what should have been great success.

I do think that the average Australian with no experience of the place (a) couldn't care less but (b) love a great failure.

We are very adept at cutting down tall poppies. For some reason we find success offensive, be it an individual, organisation or in this case, a nation.

In relation to Matt Williams comment, most of us old retired kiaps want PNG to succeed, not fail.

We mostly have a great affection for the country and, even through a haze of nostalgia for "the good old days", fervently wish that Papua New Guineans will fulfill the true potential of their country.

PNG is already the most beautiful country in the world and its people are intelligent, capable and resilient. It could and should be the wealthiest country in the Pacific Oceania region.

That it is not is partly due to Australia's failure to prepare it adequately for independence and partly due to its own post independence failures.

It is frustrating for any ex-kiap, knowing the potential of the country and its peoples, to see it current state. It is a mistake to interpret expressions of that frustration as reflecting a desire that it become a failed state.

I agree right down to the bottom of this story but disagree that “Australians want PNG to fail”.

They are generally accepting of all the negative or quaintly exotic news they read but I’ve found person to person that some of us have had great experiences in PNG and that Aussies we talk to are delighted to hear of our good experiences and want to know why the popular press in Australia aren’t reflecting that.

Primarily because there are relatively few Aussies staying for long periods in PNG and those who do are living behind barbed wire fences and security guards and aren’t living close to the good, normal citizens. It’s a “them and us” situation.

As a journalist in PNG for several years, it was depressing to see that interest in news was generally waning.

There were great quality outlets of course such as the broadsheets, the ABC and SBS, but the coverage in Australia often tended towards drama and crisis.

When I worked for the BBC World Service, however, their interest in PNG was much more wide ranging. They wanted not just to know about economic,social or environmental challenges, but about the full context of the story.

Great article - many former Kiaps and long-term expats agree that Australia sees its role as managing the latest crisis rather than investing in the human potential of PNG.

Of course Australians want PNG to fail. Ask any retired old former kiap sitting somewhere in Queensland. Nothing has gone right since 1975!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)