Foreign affairs & defence Feed

China extends influence as Solomons ditches Taiwan

China makes another significant inroad into the Pacific as the Solomons abandons Taiwan despite strenuous efforts by the USA to persuade it not to

| The Guardian

SYDNEY - The Solomon Islands’ government has voted to sever its longstanding ties with Taiwan and take up diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The move is a huge blow to self-ruled Taiwan, which has lost six allies since 2016, and to Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, who is seeking re-election in January amid rising tension with China.

The Solomon Islands, with about 600,000 people, is the latest country to switch allegiance to China since Tsai came to office in 2016, following Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Panama and El Salvador.

Continue reading "China extends influence as Solomons ditches Taiwan" »

Truth will set free the people of West Papua

Parkop - Juffa Parkop lead march
Governors Gary Juffa and Powes Parkop lead the West Papua freedom march on Monday


PORT MORESBY - The right to self-determination is not just a universal declaration provided in Article 1 of the United Nation Charter, it’s also a right promulgated by God when he got Moses to tell Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go!’

Thank you Governor  Gary Juffa for your continuous support for our people of West Papua. You have never withered and I salute you. You are a champion of our people.

I thank prime minister James Marape for the brave stand he has taken. We are a manifestation of that stand that we won’t stand by and allow our people to be killed and oppressed.

Continue reading "Truth will set free the people of West Papua" »

In Papua New Guinea, reality will dim any nationalist dreams

Marape Morrison
James Marape and Scott Morrison - Australia will respond to PNG's calls but will not make the kind of sweeping overhauls to the relationship that Marape has called for

ASSESSMENTS WRITER | Stratfor Worldview | Edited

AUSTIN, USA - Papua New Guinea's new prime minister, James Marape, is touting a more nationalist push on resources for his energy- and mineral-rich country and hinting at a rebalance in great power relations, vexing both foreign companies and regional heavyweight Australia.

Since taking office in late May, Marape has launched a formal review into a multibillion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, threatened to seek Chinese help in refinancing the country's K27 billion debt and mulled an overhaul of the country's natural resource laws to increase PNG’s share of revenue.

But despite his ambitious intentions, the eager new leader will find it difficult to take any of these efforts too far, because there's only so much the small resource- and aid-dependent Pacific country can push the envelope without jeopardizing its political stability and primary income streams.

Continue reading "In Papua New Guinea, reality will dim any nationalist dreams" »

Increasingly hysterical Australia is bad news for PNG & the region

Illustration by Dionne Gain (Sydney Morning Herald)
Illustration by Dionne Gain (Sydney Morning Herald)


TUMBY BAY - Australia watchers in places like Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands will have noticed that in the last few years a profound cultural change in their southern neighbour is in progress.

The main driving force of this change is a kind of paranoia driven by a largely politically orchestrated national fear.

One of the effects of this hysteria is that we Australian people seem to be sacrificing our basic liberties and, more profoundly, our humanity.

This is well illustrated by our treatment of refugees and asylum seekers but is also manifest in our trampling of the sovereignty of some of our neighbours and the moves to shut down the freedom of our own press and media.

Continue reading "Increasingly hysterical Australia is bad news for PNG & the region" »

Forget the Aussie rozzers & give the New Zealand police a go

RPNGC and AFP officers - Australian police are said to have problems bridging the cultural gap between themselves and PNG police


TUMBY BAY - There have been suggestions that Papua New Guinea’s police minister Bryan Kramer is thinking about seeking advice and assistance from the Australian Federal Police to bring the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary up to scratch so that it can effectively tackle a worsening law and order problem.

This has been tried before and the results were less than heartening, the reason for the failure having much to do with the inability of the Australian Federal Police to bridge the cultural gap between itself and RPNGC.

Most people in the know were not surprised. Bringing personnel from a largely peaceful urban working environment into the sort of conditions that prevail in PNG was a big ask at the best of times.

Added to that was the perception that the use of the AFP represented a neo-colonial approach. This didn’t go down well with the RPNGC itself or the general public.

But there is another option if the minister still thinks outside help is required.

Continue reading "Forget the Aussie rozzers & give the New Zealand police a go" »

Trying times in Tuvalu – no step up for climate change

Mad uncle
Tuvalu PM and Forum chair Enele Sopoaga and Australian PM Scott Morrison (Stefan Armbruster)


CANBERRA - “Save Tuvalu, save the world” sang school children as they greeted the Pacific’s leaders on arrival to what became a showdown pitting the region against Australia.

This was no ambush, but had been building for years.

At the capital Funafuti’s airport the school children sat in a moat of water surrounding a diorama of a climate change devastated island.

If it wasn’t obvious, the significance was explained to them by Tuvalu’s foreign minister. The symbolism was potent, and the ritual well established by the time Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was the last of the 18 Forum leaders to stride across the tarmac.

Well briefed on what to do, he crouched to chat, showing up for the ‘Step Up’, but one major detail escaped advisers that marked out the Australian delegation.

Continue reading "Trying times in Tuvalu – no step up for climate change" »

Colonisation will not cut it any more in our beloved islands

Corney Alone - "It was crystal clear that Australia’s attempted bullying was sponsored  from the pouch of the coal and fossil fuel industry"


PORT MORESBY – They were very strong words from the Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama: the sentiments of the rest of the Pacific Islands leaders captured in his views.

“China never insults the Pacific," Bainimarama said. "They don’t go down and tell the world that we’ve given this much money to the Pacific islands. They don’t do that.

"They’re good people, definitely better than Morrison, I can tell you that. The [Australian] prime minister was very insulting, very condescending, not good for the relationship….”

My own prime minister, James Marape, upon returning from Tuvalu acknowledged that "there is a climate change crisis in the region".

He further stated that he "will be vocal about it when he attends the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September this year".

Australia, or any other so-called leader of the free world, must know that Pacific Islands people value relationships.

Continue reading "Colonisation will not cut it any more in our beloved islands" »

‘Aussies keep saying China will take over. Guess why?’ - Fiji PM

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern with Frank Bainimarama
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern with Frank Bainimarama (Mick Tsikas)

KATE LYONS | Guardian Australia | Extract

FUNAFUTI - Scott Morrison has been accused of causing an extraordinary rift between Australia and Pacific countries by the prime minister of Fiji, who said the Australian prime minister’s insulting behaviour while at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu would push nations closer to China.

In an exclusive interview with Guardian Australia after the conclusion of the forum, Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji and a political heavyweight in the region, said Morrison’s approach during the leaders’ retreat on Thursday was “very insulting and condescending”.

“Yesterday was probably one of the most frustrating days I have ever had,” he said of the leaders’ retreat, which lasted for nearly 12 hours and almost broke down over Australia’s red lines on the climate crisis.

Continue reading "‘Aussies keep saying China will take over. Guess why?’ - Fiji PM" »

Pacific needs Australia to stop obfuscating on climate change

Scott Morrison and Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga (Mick Tsikas)
Scott Morrison and Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga (Mick Tsikas)

KATHARINE MURPHY | Guardian Australia | Extract

Link here to Katharine Murphy’s full commentary

CANBERRA - Pacific leaders are fully aware that things are not under control when it comes to Australia’s climate change efforts.

You can understand their impatience. They are standing on the frontline of a climate crisis, and trying to prod laggards around the world.

The Pacific needs the big emitters, and countries that can influence them, like Australia, to stop obfuscating and start acting while we’ve got a chance of averting the worst scenarios.

So, this past week, entering the global arena, Morrison found himself wedged between the campaign calm down offensive at home, and Australia’s demonstrable absence of climate leadership.

Continue reading "Pacific needs Australia to stop obfuscating on climate change" »

Australia willing to assist PNG on debt says Pacific minister


FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu - Australia is willing to help Papua New Guinea refinance its national debt, Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke said on Tuesday, as Canberra moves to counter what it sees as China’s efforts to increase its influence in PNG.

PNG prime minister James Marape’s office said last week that he had asked China to refinance the K27 billion debt. Marape later said the government was talking with a number of parties about its debt, not just China.

Australia and its western allies worry China has been able to use loans to increase its influence in Asia and the Pacific, described by the United States as amounting to “pay-day loan” diplomacy.

Speaking in Tuvalu’s capital on Tuesday ahead of the opening of the annual Pacific Islands Forum, Hawke said Australian lawmakers would soon head to Port Moresby for talks, including on assistance for debt refinancing.

Continue reading "Australia willing to assist PNG on debt says Pacific minister" »

Australia to set up new security college as Pacific focus sharpens

LISA MURRAY | Australian Financial Review | Extracts

SYDNEY - The Australian government has announced the next leg of its Pacific step-up ahead of Scott Morrison’s visit to Tuvalu this week, spending $19 million on establishing a new security college to train officials from the region.

The latest security initiative comes as Mr Morrison is set to face strong criticism at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting this week over Australia’s climate change policies and its support for the Adani coal mine.

The college, being set up in partnership with the Australian National University, is aimed at boosting links between security and police officials across the Pacific amid concern about China’s expanding investment and influence.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute, said Mr Morrison would be bracing himself ahead of this week's forum.

Continue reading "Australia to set up new security college as Pacific focus sharpens" »

Climate change focus as Morrison attends Pacific Islands Forum

MELISSA CLARKE | Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract

SYDNEY - Scott Morrison's pledge to "step up" relations with the Pacific will be put to the test this coming week, with the Prime Minister heading to Tuvalu for talks with Pacific leaders.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders meeting begins Monday in the Tuvaluan capital Funafuti, a small atoll 4,000km north-east of Sydney, with Mr Morrison arriving on Wednesday.

Climate change will be the central issue of the week-long meeting, along with economic development, maritime security and marine pollution.

Pacific nations have been increasingly vocal in the lead-up to the meeting in their demands for Australia to take stronger action on climate change.

Continue reading "Climate change focus as Morrison attends Pacific Islands Forum" »

Papua New Guinea backtracks on China debt refinancing


SYDNEY - Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape has backtracked on an announcement saying he had asked China to refinance the country’s $8 billion debt, insisting the statement was released without his knowledge.

A statement from his office on Tuesday said Marape had asked China’s ambassador for help in refinancing the country’s K27 billion public debt during a meeting in Port Moresby.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Marape’s office released a new statement saying it was “false” that he was “going one way to China” to tackle the country’s debt.

He said PNG was primarily discussing trade with China while examining debt options with undisclosed “non-traditional partners.”

Continue reading "Papua New Guinea backtracks on China debt refinancing" »

Multibillion debt request to China “took Australia by surprise”

KATE LYONS | The Guardian | Extracts

SYDNEY - Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape has dealt a blow to Australian diplomacy by asking China to refinance his country’s debt.

The request marks a “significant shift” in regional politics and PNG’s allegiances, according to Pacific experts.

Australia has traditionally been the largest aid donor and most important ally of PNG, but in recent years ties between China and PNG have strengthened.

PNG’s prime minister, James Marape, visited Australia two weeks ago at the invitation of his counterpart, Scott Morrison, in his first international visit since becoming the Pacific nation’s leader at the end of May.

Continue reading "Multibillion debt request to China “took Australia by surprise”" »

PNG request to China to refinance K27bn debt will rile Oz


PORT MORESBY- Papua New Guinea has asked Beijing to refinance its K27 billion debt, in a request likely to rile Australia and the United States as they try to maintain their influence in the Pacific in the face of a rising China.

Beijing has been strengthening ties with PNG and other Pacific nations by increasing engagement and offering loans for infrastructure, prompting both the US and Australia to launch their own charm offensives in the region to keep traditional allies on side.

Less than two weeks after traveling to Australia on his first trip abroad as leader, PNG prime minister James Marape announced on Tuesday that he had asked China’s ambassador for help in refinancing the country’s K27billion public debt during a meeting in Port Moresby.

“He stated that a formal letter would be forwarded to the ambassador to convey to Beijing on this request,” Marape’s office said in a statement.

Continue reading "PNG request to China to refinance K27bn debt will rile Oz" »

Marape asks China to elevate its trade partnership with PNG

NEWS DESK | PNG Today | Edited

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape has requested that China enter a free trade arrangement (FTA) with PNG and Pacific Island countries to boost the economy of the region.

Marape made these request at a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to PNG, Xue Bing, saying he was mindful that a similar arrangement with Australia and New Zealand was under review to ensure it seeks tangible outcomes.

The meeting agenda included PNG refinancing its K27 billion debt with China, the upcoming Third China-Pacific Islands economic cooperation forum to be held in Samoa in October, and forthcoming Pacific Islands Forum meetings to be held in Tuvalu this month.

“I also suggested for Chinese investment in the Agriculture and Fisheries sector, and in particularly establishing down streaming processing plants for products in forestry, fisheries, mining and petroleum, and general food production and supply in PNG,” Marape said.

Bing raised concerns with forum hosted by Tuvalu which has diplomatic relations with Taiwan and urged PNG to support China to allow it to speak at the forum meeting at which China wants to deliver a statement on strengthening relations in the region.

Marape maintains that all nations are sovereign states and that each forum member is entitled to decide on who its external partners are.

He said PNG’s One China Policy has always been the cornerstone of relations with China. Given this and favourable relations with China, PNG will support China on regional issues of mutual importance.

Bing briefed Marape on China’s investments in PNG and said they were much less compared with PNG’s other development partners. China’s two major projects are Ramu Nickel and the Porgera gold mine.

The two men also exchanged views on global food security and discussed entering an agricultural cooperation arrangement to supply PNG organic food and vegetables to the Chinese market and entering an agreement for Chinese Investors to build fisheries processing plants in PNG.

Bing invited Marape to China to “consolidate” agreement on key issues including air services, tourism, mining, petroleum, electricity, roads, ports, education, the Chinese language curriculum to be introduced in schools, and encouraging business investment from China.

Marape said all business investors and other officials traveling to PNG would be facilitated by the PNG Embassy in Beijing so meetings with senior government officials and ministers are properly coordinated.

Australia 'tarnished' Manus; military base unwelcome: Benjamin

Manus governor Charlie Benjamin (Mike Bowers)
Manus governor Charlie Benjamin (Mike Bowers)

HELEN DAVIDSON | Guardian Australia

CANBERRA - The Australian and Papua New Guinean governments have failed the people of Manus Island, who did Australia a favour in hosting its offshore immigration centre only to be left with “bad memories” and no infrastructure, the province’s governor has said.

Charlie Benjamin, who joined PNG prime minister James Marape for an official visit to Australia last week, also opposed the forthcoming joint US-Australia military base, chiefly because of the way Australia treated Manus Island over the past six years.

“The enormity and importance of this program to Australia – stopping the boat people – was very successful,” he told Guardian Australia in an exclusive interview.

Continue reading "Australia 'tarnished' Manus; military base unwelcome: Benjamin" »

James Marape’s quest to finally decolonise Papua New Guinea

James Marape - ridding Papua New Guinea of corruption is one of his major goals


TUMBY BAY - In 2005, the late Ulli Beier published ‘Decolonising the Mind’, an account of his time as a lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea between 1967 and 1971.

The book was published by Pandanus Books, established in 2001 by the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University and eventually discontinued in 2006 following budget cuts.

While it existed Pandanus was a prolific publisher of, among other things, Papua New Guinean matters for both an academic and general readership.

Its demise cut off a valuable tool for furthering an understanding of the Papua New Guinean and Australian relationship.

Continue reading "James Marape’s quest to finally decolonise Papua New Guinea" »

Australia & climate change: ‘I won’t be silenced’ says Marape

James Marape - "If we disintegrate up here, it affects Australia too”

HELEN DAVIDSON | Guardian Australia | Extract

SYDNEY - Australia has a responsibility to protect the Pacific region from the impacts of climate change, PNG’s newly appointed prime minister has said.

James Marape told the Guardian that Australia had “a moral responsibility … to the upkeep of the planet”, particularly given the extreme effect it was having on smaller Pacific nations.

“I don’t intend to speak from Canberra’s perspective, they have their own policy mindset, but as human beings I know they will respond to the moral obligation that is prevalent amidst us, that we are environmentally sensitive to the needs of others.”

He said the voices of smaller island nations must be listened to.

“As big countries in the Pacific – Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand – we have a sense of responsibility to the smaller island countries, because displacement of these smaller communities will first and foremost be our neighbourhood responsibility,” Marape said.

Continue reading "Australia & climate change: ‘I won’t be silenced’ says Marape" »

Security focus is needed in Australia’s relationship with PNG

Aust-Trade-with-PNGJARRYD DE HAAN | Future Directions International

PERTH - On the second day of his recent visit to Australia, Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison both agreed to begin negotiations to develop a comprehensive strategic and economic partnership.

In a press conference following the meeting, Morrison announced $250 million worth of investment into electricity and $79 million worth of commitments in health programs.

The announcement that both leaders would negotiate deeper strategic and economic ties will be a welcome move for bilateral relations.

Continue reading "Security focus is needed in Australia’s relationship with PNG" »

Australia to create new Pacific military unit to fend off China

Toropo and Campbell
Defence force chiefs - PNG's Major General Gilbert Toropo and Australia's Lieutenant General Angus Campbell


SYDNEY - Australia will create a new military unit dedicated to training and assisting Pacific allies, as Canberra accelerates plans to undercut Chinese influence in the region.

Australia, which long enjoyed virtually unchecked influence in the Pacific, and its Western allies worry that the region has edged closer to China in recent years as Beijing increases aid to the sparsely populated region and its resource-rich oceans.

Australia has channelled ever larger amounts of aid to the region in a bid to counter China's growing presence but defence minister Linda Reynolds said Canberra would also broaden its courtship of the Pacific to include stronger military ties.

"The Pacific Support Force will employ a mobile training team approach to strengthen capacity, resilience and interoperability throughout the region in areas such as security operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping," Reynolds said in a statement.

Continue reading "Australia to create new Pacific military unit to fend off China" »

Irritated PNG calls for end of offshore processing on Manus

James Marape
James Marape - unhappy with Australia's delays in removing refugees from Manus (EMTV)

DAVID CROWE | Sydney Morning Herald | Extract

CANBERRA – Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison is facing new calls to remove all refugees from Manus Island as political leaders from Papua New Guinea call for the "full closure" of the asylum seeker process on the island.

PNG prime minister James Marape said he had "expressed clearly" to home affairs minister Peter Dutton the need for a schedule and timetable to shut the "entire asylum processes" by resettling hundreds of refugees.

James Marape says he wants a timetable in place to resettle refugees on Manus Island but has denied any asylum seekers are in detention.

"As PNG has always stood in to assist Australia in times of need, as it has done for us also, we will ensure that we have a mutually workable timetable and closure program that is healthy for all of us – but more importantly, healthy for those people who have been part of us in Manus and PNG," Mr Marape said.

Continue reading "Irritated PNG calls for end of offshore processing on Manus" »

'Leave China out of it, that's our business', Marape tells Morrison

Marape and Morrison
James Marape and Scott Morrison - PNG's relationships with China "nothing to do with Australia"

ROD McGUIRK | Associated Press

CANBERRA — Papua New Guinea's prime minister said today his country's relationship with China is not open to discussion during his current visit to Australia.

Prime Minister James Marape is making his first visit to Australia since he became leader of its nearest neighbour and former colony in May.

His visit comes as Australia attempts to counter China's growing influence in the South Pacific by teaming with the United States and Japan to finance infrastructure in Pacific island states that the Chinese have aggressively wooed with loans and aid.

Marape said before his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday that China's relationship with his nation was none of Australia's business.

"We'll discuss PNG-Australia relations with Australia and we'll leave the PNG and China relationship with our discussions with our counterparts in China," Marape told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Continue reading "'Leave China out of it, that's our business', Marape tells Morrison" »

Australia should help end tribal violence in PNG

ArmedMITCHELL THOMAS | Organisation for World Peace | Edited

HOUSTON, USA - The remote highlands regions of Papua New Guinea has recently been the subject of international attention in the wake of a brutal massacre.

The remote village of Karida saw an outbreak of tribal violence last week as part of ongoing conflicts in some of the country’s most remote provinces.

While tribal conflict and warfare have historically been an issue for PNG, the rate and escalation of violence has increased in recent years.

This is due in a large part to the provision of high-powered weapons that has led to a marked change in the way conflict has unfolded.

Continue reading "Australia should help end tribal violence in PNG" »

Four anti-corruption takeaways from the 2019 G20 Summit

G20 leaders
The G20 leaders in Osaka - no doubt they are committed to tackling corruption, on paper

EMILIA BERAZATEGUI | Transparency International

BERLIN - After 11th-hour negotiations at the recent G20 summit in Osaka, the assembled leaders reached consensus on a communiqué through which they sought to identify shared solutions to some of the most pressing challenges faced by the global community.

Anti-corruption featured far more prominently in this program than in previous years, and the G20 adopted new commitments and resources for tackling this major threat to sustainable development that works for all.

So, where do we go from here?

After engaging with the G20 throughout the process and attending the Summit, here are our four main anti-corruption takeaways from the 2019 G20.

Continue reading "Four anti-corruption takeaways from the 2019 G20 Summit" »

Taking Back PNG: Is Australian aid obsolete in a China world?

Boniface Kaiyo
Boniface Kaiyo - 'James Marape faces key challenges including the failure of Australia’s aid assistance to PNG'


PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea is in a region at a crossroads. One road takes it towards open markets, inclusive growth and a dynamic economy. The other takes it backwards towards protectionism, exclusion and regional economic slowdown.

Sandwiched in between is foreign aid. In the more than four decades since independence, aid and international development have had a decisive role to play in creating a platform for the country’s e future.

Now, the challenges facing Australia’s aid to PNG have emerged more starkly in light of China’s increasing presence and competition with the US in the region.

Since recently assuming office as PNG’s eighth prime minister, James Marape has made no bones of what he intends to do.

He’s said he will “tweak” the country’s resource laws, a change which seems set to affect the interests of international actors including foreign direct investors. This is in the context of PNG’s resource owners, who have been left waiting for a promised kina windfall which has remained far out of reach.

One view of Marape’s statement is that he is placing PNG’s Chinese connection more highly than his predecessor Peter O’Neill. But Marape must be careful to promote PNG’s national interest. This seems to be a clear gamble.

Continue reading "Taking Back PNG: Is Australian aid obsolete in a China world?" »

The media is overstating China’s aid to the Pacific

China's Pacific aid (Lowy Institute)
China's total Pacific aid (Lowy Institute)

TERENCE WOOD | Devpolicy Blog

CANBERRA - The Guardian newspaper is far from the worst offender in reporting on Chinese aid.

(That award goes to the Sunshine Coast Daily, which helpfully told readers last year that “China almost has Australia surrounded”).

The Guardian is, however, guilty of repeatedly making misleading statements about how much aid China gives to the Pacific.

Others are also doing this, but The Guardian’s reporting combines all the main errors in a few short sentences. As a result, it’s a great teaching tool.

In 2018, The Guardian published an article claiming:

Continue reading "The media is overstating China’s aid to the Pacific" »

More than bad manners: the problem with ignoring the PNG media

Scott Waide
Distinguished PNG journalist Scott Waide. Newton Cain asks if Australia is signalling to the PNG leadership that answering questions from the media is something you only do when it suits you

TESS NEWTON CAIN | Twitter | Edited

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

"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.”

– Keith Jackson in PNG Attitude yesterday

BRISBANE - As I’ve discussed before [see for example, here and here] this type of behaviour on the part of Australian ministers when visiting PNG and other Pacific countries is more than bad manners.

It is a worrying sign that the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby assumes it is entitled to dictate access to a sovereign nation’s media.

Continue reading "More than bad manners: the problem with ignoring the PNG media" »

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.

Continue reading "Foreign minister Payne's PNG relationship - but no media please" »

B’ville referendum choice clear, but where does Australia stand?

BRA guerrillas
Never again, surely. In 1994, from a hilltop position, Bougainville Revolutionary Army guerrillas observe the Papua New Guinea Defence Force garrison at Koromira (Ben Bohane/Australian War Memorial)


NOOSA – Two apparently unconnected events in Bougainville and its neighbouring and culturally related Solomon Islands have highlighted to a looming Australian dilemma in Bougainville.

If the autonomous Papua New Guinean province votes for independence in an October referendum, a decision requiring approval from the PNG parliament, how will Australia respond?

Earlier this month, as the Bougainville and PNG governments announced they had further refined the referendum choices for Bougainville’s political future, the Australian government announced a $250 million aid program for Solomon Islands.

In addition, Australia said it will provide $3 million in loans to Solomon’s workers who want to come to Australia under labour schemes as well as funding a new building for its prime minister's office and foreign affairs ministry.

The ABC commented that this “swift redesign of parts of the aid program [signalled] Australia's determination to reinforce its influence in the Pacific as strategic competition intensifies and China continues to pour resources into the region.”

Continue reading "B’ville referendum choice clear, but where does Australia stand?" »

As China looms, Australia’s military refocuses on neighbours

Chinese ship in Sydney Harbour
One of the Chinese ships in Sydney Harbour last week (Bianca De Marchi)

JAMIE TARABAY | New York Times

SYDNEY — For years, the graduating classes of Australia’s military training programs studied Dari and Pashto, the languages of distant war-torn lands, eschewing the Bahasa and the Pidgin of Asia-Pacific nations close to home.

But as Australian forces wind down their presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they have served alongside American troops since the early 2000s, they are renewing their focus on Australia’s island neighbours, which have become a different kind of battleground as China seeks to expand its influence in the region.

Australia has always tried to maintain military forces near home strong enough to deter any potentially hostile power from moving into the South Pacific.

But in recent decades, it has not faced such a challenge in the region, and instead has sent its troops again and again to support the United States in faraway conflicts.

Continue reading "As China looms, Australia’s military refocuses on neighbours" »

The ascent of Marape – I was sort of there; sort of looking on

As seen from my hotel room - the flat stretch of bitumen foreshore  middle right contains about 150 vehicles purchased for APEC and never used


PORT MORESBY - From the window of my room in the Grand Papua, I have a magnificent westward view up Fairfax Harbour, with the remnants of the Macdhui still visible, but barely, in the middle distance.

Closer to my vantage point is a large flat expanse of freight concourse abutting a wharf.

The concourse is laden with vehicles – perhaps 100 buses and 50 people movers – neatly parked.

These are just some of the conveyances imported for the APEC summit last year. A few kilometers inland, in the less salt corrosive atmosphere near Bomana gaol, are the infamous 40 Maseratis.

It is these expensive, unused, unemployed and now derelict vehicles which an oaf of a minister claimed to have ‘pre-sold’ in a futile and false attempt to escape public mockery and anger.

Continue reading "The ascent of Marape – I was sort of there; sort of looking on" »

Uncertain future for Australian contracts with unsettled PNG

Marise Payne
Marise Payne says Australia would be "brave to predict" the future of its offshore refugee processing deal if PNG gets a new government


MELBOURNE - Australia would be "brave to predict" the future of its offshore processing deal with Papua New Guinea after the country's prime minister announced his resignation, according to foreign minister Marise Payne.

PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill said on Sunday he would resign after seven years at the helm as it became clear the Opposition had enough numbers to topple him in parliament this week.

It is unclear who will replace Mr O'Neill, though he wants to hand over his job to former two-time PNG prime minister Sir Julius Chan, 79.

Mr O'Neill was Australia's key partner when it came to negotiating and then maintaining arrangements to keep 550 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island even after the country's High Court found the detention centre was unconstitutional.

Continue reading "Uncertain future for Australian contracts with unsettled PNG" »

Leadership crisis: Australia’s tin ear on PNG as uncanny as ever

Scott Morrison with Peter O'Neill - stepping in where angels fear to tread


NOOSA – Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has praised Peter O’Neill even as the Papua New Guinea prime minister fights the battle of his political life against a resurgent opposition that seems set to command a majority in the country’s Haus Tambaran.

Yesterday afternoon O’Neill announced his resignation after seven years as national leader but has not yet formalised this position as is required by the PNG constitution.

Ben Packham in The Australian newspaper reports this morning that Australian officials are “closely watching the political fallout from the move”.

But Morrison gave O’Neill a protective boost yesterday by talking of his “strong friendship and relationship” with the struggling prime minister.

Continue reading "Leadership crisis: Australia’s tin ear on PNG as uncanny as ever" »

O’Neill’s Australian citizenship saga: who isn’t telling truth?


KUNDIAWA - The political games continue in Australia’s closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, as a parliamentary vote of no confidence in prime minister Peter O’Neill gets closer.

There are many tactical twists and turns, with one of the hottest issues at the moment being an allegation questioning whether O’Neill is an Australian citizen, which would have barred his election to parliament.

A week ago the member for Madang, Bryan Kramer, raised the eyebrows of many Facebook users when he posted an article alleging that O’Neill was an Australian citizen.

Continue reading "O’Neill’s Australian citizenship saga: who isn’t telling truth?" »

Australian aid & the Pacific in the Coalition’s third term

Stephen Howes - positive change is possible

STEPHEN HOWES | Devpolicy News | Australian National University

CANBERRA - Aid hardly rated a mention during the 2019 Australian election campaign. Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong talked about it, and Labor promised more aid. The Liberals eventually put out a foreign policy statement, which defends their record on aid but promises nothing new.

But will it just be business as usual? Aid is a policy domain with enormous ministerial discretion. As Ben Day has argued, it is one area where a foreign minister can actually make a difference.

And the Coalition will be under pressure.

Their unconvincing climate change policy will be a constant target for Pacific criticism. PNG’s ongoing economic woes, corruption scandals, and health crisis will put pressure on the government to get a better return from our biggest aid program.

Continue reading "Australian aid & the Pacific in the Coalition’s third term" »

Soft power & China’s influence in the Pacific islands

Richard Herr
Richard Herr - "A perception that Canberra has drifted away from the regional consensus on climate change, development priorities and economic relations"

RICHARD HERR | Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)

CANBERRA - Just why the concept of soft power has become such an accepted explanation for the spread of Chinese influence in the Pacific islands is something of a conundrum.

(The term ‘Pacific islands’ is used here with the narrow meaning of the small member states of the Pacific Islands Forum.)

There seems to be little evidence that regional states have the sort of admiration for, and desire to emulate, China’s political or economic systems in the way Joseph Nye framed his idea about the attractive power of non-coercive influence.

It was the geopolitics of the Cold War that motivated China to seek a place in the Pacific island sun, not some soft-power pull from regional states seeking to a model to follow.

And, for nearly two decades afterwards, Beijing scarcely made a ripple in the regional lagoon, which ended with a flurry of ‘dollar diplomacy’ competition with Taipei for recognition.

Continue reading "Soft power & China’s influence in the Pacific islands" »

O’Neill meets Xi: Promises greater cooperation with China

O'Neill and Xi
Peter O'Neill and Xi Xinping - "China highly appreciates PNG for prioritising relations with China in its diplomacy"


BEIJING - Chinese president Xi Jinping has met with Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill at the second belt and road forum for international cooperation.

Recalling his state visit to PNG in November 2018, Xi said the relationship between China and PNG is at the best period in history.

He said China highly appreciates PNG for prioritising relations with China in its diplomacy and giving solid support to China on issues concerning China's core interests.

“China supports PNG in choosing a development path on its own that is in line with its national conditions.

“China is willing to work with PNG to strengthen coordination and cooperation under the multilateral framework, so as to enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.”

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Grand corruption? Sir Mek's hard questions about Paladin contract

Grant Hehir
Grant Hehir -  leading the inquiry delving deep into possible corruption in PNG and Australia in the Paladin Manus  detention centre contract


PORT MORESBY – Former prime minister and MP for Moresby North-West, Sir Mekere Morauta, says an Australian government inquiry into the granting of contracts relating to the Manus detention centre should consider the possibility of official corruption involving senior Papua New Guinean politicians and bureaucrats.

The inquiry, being conducted by Australia’s auditor-general Grant Hehir will cover all aspects of government contracts for Manus and Nauru and will report next year.

Sir Mekere said anecdotal evidence suggests Australian taxpayers’ money may have been secretly used as slush funds to prop up the prime ministership of Peter O’Neill.

“It seems clear the PNG government put pressure on the Australian government and department of home affairs to appoint Paladin as the garrison services and security contractor for Manus,” Sir Mekere said.

Continue reading "Grand corruption? Sir Mek's hard questions about Paladin contract" »

As China strengthens & the West falters, world grows precarious

Chris Overland
Chris Overland


ADELAIDE – Yesterday’s article by Yu Lei is illuminating for many reasons. As other PNG Attitude readers have also observed, the choice of language alone is revealing.

Like Paul Oates commented, I believe credit has to go to the Chinese government for heaving the entire country into the modern era in a stunningly short period of time. The increase in wealth and opportunities afforded to Chinese people generally has been nothing short of astounding.

That said, it has come at a considerable price in terms of individual liberty, the environment, the conspicuous absence of the rule of law and a good deal of human suffering for those who have not fallen into line with the ruling party's dictates.

Also, it is fair to say that China has been quite willing to steal the knowledge and technology required to achieve its economic miracle. It has done this on a large scale.

Now, with confidence in itself and its manifest destiny to become the paramount power in the world, the Chinese government is revealing itself as the ruthlessly autocratic regime that it has always been.

Continue reading "As China strengthens & the West falters, world grows precarious" »

Australia’s bid to mend ties with China may be insincere

China-Australia-flag-puzzleYU LEI | Global Times | Edited

SHANDONG, CHINA - The Australian government's recent attempt to improve its relations with China has been welcomed and supported by some Australian voters, especially those in business, agriculture, animal husbandry and mining.

However, it is believed that Canberra's apparent change in attitude is a tactical campaigning effort likely to serve electoral interests in the run-up to next month’s federal election. Whether this attempt can be sustained and come out as a sincere bid to improve relations remains to be seen.

The change in attitude is obviously intended to win over Chinese and other voters. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia is home to more than 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry who comprise the largest ethnic group besides the white people.

Continue reading "Australia’s bid to mend ties with China may be insincere" »

PNG growth is a key threat facing Australia says spy boss

Nick Warner - PNG is one of greatest future threats facing Australia


BRISBANE – One of Australia's leading intelligence bosses has told the ABC that Papua New Guinea represents one of the greatest threats facing his country.

Nick Warner, director of the Office of National Intelligence, listed PNG's rapid population growth as one of six principal security risks confronting Australia.

The other five threats Warner identified are territorial disputes over the China Sea between China and the US, right-wing and Islamist terrorism, technological change, North Korea's nuclear weapons and threats to 'rule-based order'.

Warner said PNG’s population is expected to increase to 20 million in 20 years and this rate of growth will threaten its natural resources including electricity and water supplies.

Continue reading "PNG growth is a key threat facing Australia says spy boss" »

Sir Mek: 'Australia turned blind eye to election fraud & malpractice. PNGns expect Australia to condemn corruption, fraud & violence'

Sir Mekere Morauta - "The 2017 election was designed to be chaotic; it was designed to be rigged; it was designed to produce a particular result”


NOOSA – Former Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, has strongly criticised “foreign governments and organisations”, singling out Australia, for their assessments of the 2017 PNG national election.

Sir Mekere accused them of “whitewashing the rigging and corruption associated with it”.

He was reacting to shocking revelations in independent election reports published by the Australian National University and Transparency International.

“The ANU report and the report of TI PNG stand out in stark contrast to the remarks made by some foreign governments and in other observer reports of the 2017 election,” he said.

“While those other observers noted irregularities, mostly with the electoral roll, they failed to expose the widespread abuse, violence, intimidation and rigging that voters experienced.”

Continue reading "Sir Mek: 'Australia turned blind eye to election fraud & malpractice. PNGns expect Australia to condemn corruption, fraud & violence'" »

‘Australia over a barrel’: PNG official sought K20 million ‘donation’

Manus from the air - looks peaceful but corruption, greed and exploitation roil beneath


MELBOURNE  - An Australian government contractor on Manus Island was asked by a senior Papua New Guinea official in 2017 for a multi-million-dollar donation to the ruling party of prime minister Peter O’Neill.

When the company, which was working for the Home Affairs department on the offshore detention regime, refused the request, the company's senior managers began to encounter problems with visas for staff to enter or remain in PNG.

The contractor, which asked that its name not be used to protect the welfare of its Manus Island-based staff, rejected the donation request and reported it to senior department officials in late 2017. It's understood more than one contractor has experienced similar problems.

Continue reading "‘Australia over a barrel’: PNG official sought K20 million ‘donation’" »

Hypocrisy undermines Australia’s position as a corruption fighter

PNG is the most corrupt country in APEC, but the Manus contracts reflect badly on Australian governance which  appears to be hypocritical and replete with double standards


CANBERRA - Recent media revelations about the $423 million (K1 billion) contract awarded to a relatively unknown company, Paladin, to provide security and other services to refugees on Manus has attracted extensive discussion in Australia.

Most of this has centred on Paladin, the extravagant cost of the contract and rate of profit for the company (estimated at K40 million a month), and, of course, the opaque and abbreviated tendering process followed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Less has been said about what these events might say about Australia’s ongoing engagement with PNG. We argue that this case potentially serves to undermine Australia’s standing among those striving to combat corruption and improve governance in its northern neighbour.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the Australian federal government ran a ‘limited tender’ for two contracts won by Paladin.

Continue reading "Hypocrisy undermines Australia’s position as a corruption fighter" »

As China barges in, Australia admits to failings in the Pacific

China OzANDREW BEATTY | Agence France-Presse | Extracts

SYDNEY - Australia has admitted it had not focused enough attention on its Pacific backyard but vows to make "long overdue" amends amid growing Chinese influence in the region.

"I think we would have to accept some criticism," Australia's minister for international development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston, told AFP on Friday.

"We have perhaps not put as much attention and effort into our own region as we should of."

In recent months, Ruston has been at the sharp end of trying to fix that - jetting to-and-fro between Australia and far-flung Pacific Islands, as part of prime minister Scott Morrison's "step-up" in the region.

Continue reading "As China barges in, Australia admits to failings in the Pacific" »

Is Oz aid slackness to PNG a ploy to maintain the alliance


MELBOURNE - Over a number of years I’ve been reading contributions to PNG Attitude regarding Australian aid to Papua New Guinea and other Pacific/Indian Ocean nations. 

Each of these articles has tended to look at specific issues associated with the provision and management of aid without looking at the total picture and realising there may be a bigger unstated driver.

To understand how Australia’s aid to PNG evolved, we need to take a brief trip back in history.

In the mid-1800s a number of European nations were exploring the Pacific and Indian Oceans with a view to colonising new lands or influencing native populations.

Continue reading "Is Oz aid slackness to PNG a ploy to maintain the alliance" »

Australia's offshore contracts: millions spent; dubious outcomes

Bureaucrats in Senate
Bureaucrats faced tough and uncomfortable questioning about the Manus contracts in the Australian Senate

CHRISTOPHER KNAUS & HELEN DAVIDSON | Guardian Australia | Extract

SYDNEY - Benham Satah knows Manus better than most. A Kurdish refugee, Satah has been there six years, stuck on an island prison despite having committed no crime.

He was there when Paladin, a little-known security outfit, took over a $423 million deal to provide services to asylum seekers. Satah has met with Paladin’s leaders and heard the promises they made. From the outset, the arrangement seemed strange.

“With $1 million you could run Manus,” he tells Guardian Australia, speaking down a scratchy phone line. “You could run Manus security for 19 months [with $1 million]. What Paladin did in 19 months to get this money?”

It’s the question that still hangs about the Paladin affair. One that’s yet to be properly answered. Two sources on the island have now complained that Paladin “does nothing” of substance on the island, aside from check IDs and maintain a general presence.

Continue reading "Australia's offshore contracts: millions spent; dubious outcomes" »

Australia must quickly resolve Manus refugee crisis: Pruaitch

Patrick Pruaitch
Patrick Pruaitch -  “Australia’s role in this refugee crisis is deplorable from almost any angle one could take"

MEDIA STATEMENT | Office of the PNG Opposition Leader

PORT MORESBY – Opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch has called on the Australian government to quickly resolve the problem of refugees stranded in Papua New Guinea and Nauru for the past six years.

Mr Pruaitch said details of the billion kina security contract awarded to the Paladin Group highlight the callous way offshore refugees are being treated.

The Paladin contract was awarded in 2017, a year after the PNG supreme court declared it was unconstitutional and illegal for refugees to be held in a PNG detention centre and after the virtual prison was shut down.

“These refugees came to Manus after perilous boat trips that have taken many lives and 600 of them have been left to languish on the island for the past six years,” Mr Pruaitch said.

“Following a visit there, the Catholic Bishops of PNG have said the mental health of most refugees has deteriorated severely and many are suicidal.”

Continue reading "Australia must quickly resolve Manus refugee crisis: Pruaitch" »

Paladin scandal ‘raises questions’ about PNG-Oz relationship

ImagesCHRISTOPHER KNAUS & HELEN DAVIDSON | The Guardian | Extracts

Link here to the full article on reaction in PNG and Australia to the Paladin scandal

SYDNEY - A former Papua New Guinea official has warned the Paladin scandal is undermining Australia’s efforts to stamp out corruption in the Pacific nation.

Paul Flanagan, a former Australian treasury bureaucrat who worked as a senior adviser to the PNG government, said news of the Paladin affair had spread quickly through the nation’s parliament, where it had become a “hot issue”.

The scandal was painting Australia’s efforts to strengthen anti-corruption measures and improve procurement standards as hypocritical, he said.

Continue reading "Paladin scandal ‘raises questions’ about PNG-Oz relationship" »