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21 November 2018


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John Greenshields

If the constitution is to be revisited, perhaps we could consider the other big issue both in PNG and Australia:
that there are no female members of the PNG parliament.

It has become a male club, dominated by a Big Man culture. The largest clan, with the biggest budget will dominate. Member’s grants flow to the dominant clan, leaving others with little or nothing. This is not democracy as envisaged by drafters of the Constitution.

A similar situation exists in Australia, where it is difficult for women to get pre-selected or elected for Parliament. Talk of quotas for women is seen as tokenistic and contrived. Australia has been at the forefront of electoral reform, being the second country to give women the vote in 1902.

Perhaps it is time to start a conversation about democratic gender equality for both Australia and PNG. There may be many ways to achieve this objective. One possibility may be to have dual-gender electorates, such that voters have to vote for one candidate of each gender. This would require Constitutional change in both countries. Electorates would be larger, and candidates would need wider appeal. It would neutralize the male dominance of politics for truly democratic and representative governments.

This is not a topic that Australia could suggest to other countries, but we could lead by example, as we have before.

Dave Ekins

This is a good discussion. Leading up to Independence there was some consensus that dividing the country in the four Local Government regions (Highlands, Islands, New Guinea Mainland and Papua)and giving them autonomy would be a better model than 19 separate Provinces and might also counter the separatist desires of Bougainville and any other future breakaways.

If parochialism and a million other barriers could be overcome, a Federation comprising either the four regions or some limited Provincial amalgamation or even the 21 separate Provinces could work. The biggest barrier to overcome would be the fact that such a change would take 20-30 years to work through, with very little initial benefit or return, and sadly, long-term planning past next Tuesday is not something that is embedded in the PNG psyche.

Martin Auld

PNG, like the rest of us, suffers from the 'narcissism of small differences.' Not even the EU has been able to overcome it.

Some time ago I think it was Phil who mused about PNG needing a 'new bus.' Mindanao has a new bus, federalism with another name, grudgingly given only to prevent a new war for total independence.

For what it's worth, I think PNG is doing quite well and a form of autonomy in which the regions retain 70% of their wealth and the centre 30% is better than stirring up the politics of difference that a discourse on federalism would undoubtedly sharpen.

Off topic I suppose but Chris mentions Canada. Largely forgotten by historians here has been the experience of Newfoundland, the biggest loser in WW1.

It was a full Dominion of the Crown along with Australia and NZ until WW1 manpower losses [the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was destroyed in just two battles] and war debts forced London to bail it out and engineer a referendum.

They reluctantly chose federal status within Canada rather than independence. Perfidious Albion wouldn't of course allow them the option of voting to join the US, which the large Irish population would have taken. They haven't prospered in Canada.

William Dunlop

Endless Waffling on equates to "Much 'adieu' about nought" to the average P N G villager.

Paul Oates

I too have pontificated for many years about how logical and more effective government could evolve in PNG.

Anyone who has read my missives on this blog and elsewhere will no doubt have to stifle yet another a groan or two in the belief, ‘here comes another blast from the past!’.

I have now come to the realisation however that there are two major aspects that predicate any form of a collectively assembled nation’s successful foundation.

The first is a viable threat to the existence of that nation, whether it be of internal or external origin.

The threat has to be strong enough to cobble disparate elements together and hopefully bind them with sufficiently strong allegiances to take precedence over the individual elements that make up the nation.

The US (after their Civil War), Italy (after unification) and India (after the split up of 1947) are some examples.

The second factor is that no one element within the federation can take precedence over the others.

That requires a structure as has been set up in many democratic nations, whereby a bicameral system of parliament provides a check or house of review on what could be an impulsive move occurring in the lower house.

The presence of a head of state to add an extra barrier to hasty and spur of the moment decisions is also worth having although PNG has in the past provided evidence that even this position is subject to undue influence.

The fact that Australia was settled and eventually populated by a multitude of different immigrants and varying perspectives originally provided a balance that was set in stone with the bicameral system of parliament we now have.

Only one State, Queensland, got uppity and got rid of their upper house in the 1920’with the result they now have to have a Committee system to review almost everything, thereby in essence virtually recreating the review process but under a different name. PNG could well learn from this fact.

PNG collectively as a nation, has never had to cope with a serious external threat. That potential unifying force therefore hasn’t yet emerged.

The Bougainville war was virtually removed from the mainland and will eventually and hopefully, be resolved in the imminent referendum. The emotions and tensions revealed in the film ‘Mr Pip’ still potentially exist however.

PNG therefore is at the start of a long and arduous process that seems to be required to form an eventually cohesive nation. Nothing outsiders can do or say will have any real effect on this process of evolution.

Even after a logical union of disparate ethnicities happens there is no guarantee that any union will continue. Just look at how the so-called United Kingdom is teetering on the edge of a meltdown.

The EU nations may well languish under the over administered, extra layer of government in Brussels however there has been no continental war for 80 years. That in itself must be a record. Threats from the East are nothing new and may well keep the Union together.

The more the matter is discussed however, the closer we outsiders seem to get to an impasse. The solutions/s must be home grown but will inevitably end up being similar to all those that preceded it in human history. That is because as a species, we have not evolved past our present point of attainment.

Whether humans can evolve further or in fact, will be allowed to is really the crux of the matter. Until that aspect might happen, we are left with those alternatives we already know and just need to understand.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The elements for an effective upper house are already in place and are represented by the governors of each province.

If they were so inclined they could come together to form a de facto senate.

What keeps them from doing this is a combination of ennui and competition with each other for a cut of the pie.

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