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PNG ponders the Rudd ascendancy

PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare has congratulated Kevin Rudd on his election victory saying he’s looking forward to an early meeting with Mr Rudd to establish some understanding on the way forward for the two countries. “PNG has had a close and fruitful association with the ALP, dating back to former prime ministers Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and I’m confident we will progress this even further under Mr Rudd’s leadership,” Sir Michael said.

Meanwhile, the PNG Post-Courier has editorialised that Kevin Rudd is still largely an unknown quantity to his people and Papua New Guineans. “We are largely in the dark as to what Mr Rudd thinks about PNG. He has achieved fame in Asia and the Pacific for his fluency in the main Chinese language, Mandarin.”

“It will be something for Waigani bureaucrats and politicians to work out how focused the new Australian prime minister is on things Asian and how much time and attention he will give to our part of the world. In recent years, people like Mr Downer and the correspondents who shadow his footsteps have lavished words and money on the Indonesians especially and to some extent, the Chinese.

“Perhaps we have a small advantage though. Mr Rudd, while still an Opposition frontbencher, came to PNG and walked the Kokoda Track with Government Minister Joe Hockey. We hope that their down-to-earth experience of us, through the trek, will have given them a more sympathetic backgrounding than they would have received if they had gone the traditional VIP route at Waigani. Perhaps Mr Rudd will have something to say about the plans for mining next to the Kokoda Track by an Australian company. And the prospect of Papua New Guineans going to work on short-term visas to relieve Australian labour shortages.”


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