TUMBY BAY - The critical analysis of the Papua New Guinea government and the nation as a whole is a regular feature of PNG Attitude.
The analysis has tended to become more negative over the years, particularly since Peter O’Neill’s Peoples National Congress came to power.
A lot of the negativity associated with his government has unfortunately rubbed off on the wider nation. The Papua New Guinean people have, in effect, been tarred with the same brush as that applied to its government.
Much of the negative criticism on PNG Attitude understandably comes from Papua New Guinean writers and commentators but there is also a significant contribution from Australians with experience in the country.
While the criticism in the latter case is generally well-intentioned it is easy to detect a certain sense of superiority running through many of the arguments.
This makes one wonder whether such a self-satisfied attitude is actually justified and whether there is not a hint of hypocrisy. Australia, after all, is not without its own problems and faults.
Take, for instance, the criticism of Papua New Guinea’s history of logging and land clearance.
There is no doubt that PNG has an appalling rate of deforestation and land clearing. Recent statistics suggest that 1.4% of its tropical forests are being lost annually.
This is mainly due to illegal logging, which contributes 70-90% of all timber exports, one of the highest rates in the world.
Papua New Guinea has lost 640,000 hectares of forest to logging in the past five years and 3% of its total tree cover since 2000.
That’s terrible and clearly unsustainable, especially given the impact on land owners, habitat and climate change, but consider the following statistics.
Australia has lost 25% of its rainforests, 45% of its open forests, 32% of its woodland forest and 30% of its Mallee forest in the 200 years since settlement. That gives Australia one of the highest rates of tree clearing of any developed country in the world
When you think of devastating deforestation and animal extinction you usually think of the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo. But eastern Australia ranks alongside these in the top 10 of the world’s major deforestation regions.
Most of the clearing is happening in Queensland, and it is accelerating. Despite having less remaining woody vegetation, Queensland clears vegetation almost twice as fast as Brazil clears the Amazon forests.
In other words, Australia and PNG are as bad as each other when it comes to land clearing and its impacts. Neither country is in a position to criticise the other. Both governments have failed their people miserably.
There are many other examples that can be pointed out. Another is the exploitation of mineral resources and the devastation that can cause, especially when the revenues are shipped overseas with the ore.
You could argue that as citizens of a developed nation Australians should be using their own failures to advise their nearest neighbour of the pitfalls of following similar paths, be it in governance, budget responsibility or resource exploitation, but the argument falls flat because what we would be warning against is still very much alive in our own patch.
The governments of Australia and PNG are on the nose, they are both accidents waiting to happen, train wrecks in the making. All caused by a lust for power and the riches it brings.
The people in both countries are bystanders with little hope of changing anything.
Australia still has many clear advantages over PNG; we have better health and education systems, our law and legal institutions are robust and our politicians and public servants are nowhere near as corrupt as those in PNG.
We are also just as good at criticising and lampooning our own leaders, this comes across strongly in the Australian comments on the blog.
Nevertheless, any advice we offer has to be measured. We have to be careful how we criticise others.
Perhaps one thing we could do is pay a bit more attention to what people in PNG are saying, not only about themselves but also about us.