The captains and the kings have departed from Sydney, the barbed wire fences are being dragged down and sanity is slowly returning to this great city (with the possible exception of the police force, who’s efforts to talk up violence were certifiable).
But the unexpected good news from this bizarre week is the reported easing of the hostile relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, has agreed with his PNG counterpart, Sam Abal [left], to resume annual ministerial talks that were cancelled when relations between the two countries went into a nose dive last year. Among other things, the verbal hostilities led to development cooperation being slowed.
The Sydney Morning Herald says Sam Abal last night remarked pointedly that he was not “into discussing issues through the media which can be quite distractive”. This referred to public criticism by Downer and John Howard of PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, over the Julian Moti affair, still; a matter of great controversy in PNG. Australia is expected to continue to seek the public release of the PNG report which implicated Sir Michael in the operation to get Moti out of the country. Although Somare stood beside Howard during APEC’s final photo shoot, the two did not hold discussions during APEC.
Coincidentally, I was having lunch with two senior Liberals a couple of weeks ago and they commented that Downer’s performance as Foreign Minister had been “outstanding”. “I won’t enter that debate,” I replied,”except to mention that in our own neighbourhood, the South Pacific, it’s been pathetic”.