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Foreign minister Payne's PNG relationship - but no media please

Marise Payne - igat poret long toktok wantaim ol nius raita


NOOSA - Senator Marise Payne, Australia's foreign affairs minister, made a brief visit to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville late this week.

In Port Moresby she met with prime minister James Marape, deputy prime minister Davis Steven and a number of other ministers.

After the lightning trip, Payne issued a media release saying her visit "was an opportunity to further strengthen Australia’s relationship with our close friend and neighbour".

Of course, every time PNG is mentioned by an Australian official, there is a brag about the "relationship".

So how then does this work out in practice?

NBC radio station Tribe FM was able to tell us, reporting that the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby had told local journalists in no uncertain terms  that there would be no opportunity to ask Payne questions about her visit.

This was not the first time the High Commission has shown such gross discourtesy to the PNG media, who have previously been excluded from interviews, official lunches and even media conferences.

It was a small mercy, on this occasion, that the only foreign correspondent in PNG, Natalie Whiting, was treated no better than the domestic media. At least the bad manners were not based on ethnicity.

I can only assume Australian bureaucrats were trying to protect a rookie foreign minister from questions on PNG that, because of her inexperience, she would be unable to answer.

In a media statement Payne said she and the PNG ministers had "discussed our shared priorities and interests, such as economic and development cooperation, infrastructure initiatives, labour mobility, gender equality, and Australia’s stepped up engagement with the Pacific."

She also said, "I am particularly looking forward to seeing more Papua New Guineans working with Australian employers under the Pacific Labour Scheme." But she clearly wasn't looking forward to meeting PNG journalists.

Payne, accompanied by Bougainville affairs minister Puka Temu (but no journalists), flew to Bougainville for talks with acting president Raymond Masono. Her press release (as close as she was to come to the media) said they discussed Australia’s support for the Bougainville Peace Agreement and preparations for October's independence referendum.

Payne also met with "women peace builders from around Bougainville" as well as "emerging female leaders at the Pacific Adventist University" and she "was honoured to open a new library at the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance." However she was obviously not honoured to meet the media.

Her press statement finished with the words, "Our countries enjoy a strong strategic partnership founded on a shared history and mutual values, extensive community links, and a commitment to a secure and prosperous Pacific region."

But no commitment to speaking through the PNG media to millions of Papua New Guineans.


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Paul Oates

Sounds just like the usual public service bulldust prepared by departmental people as a 'snow job' to be handed out to the media.

'Em maus wara tasol', wanpla lang itok olsem lo taim emi stap klostu lo miting bilo ol na harim displa toktok nating.

Daniel Doyle

"....discussed our shared priorities and interests, such as economic and development cooperation, infrastructure initiatives, labour mobility, gender equality".

So what initiatives and projects were jointly agreed upon to enhance the areas listed, or was it just a talkfest?

Philip Fitzpatrick

Of course the other explanation is that Scott Morrison doesn't trust her.

"Have a good trip but keep your mouth shut" might have been the order of the day.

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