Dear Mr Rudd: re 'Montevideo Maru'
Long painim ki bilong opim doa

Yes, we can all make a difference

Prague, Wednesday - The weather remains dour, all the better for energetic walking, but the beer is as good as ever. It's also pleasing to see the name Budweiser back in the ownership of the country where it belongs.

If you have read Liz Thurston's letter to the Prime Minister [below] about the Montevideo Maru, I think you'd agree that the she offers is both intellectually compelling and emotionally engaging. Indeed, it strikes me that it would take a very flinty heart and a very closed mind in the Office of the Prime Minister to flick a letter like that into the tray marked 'Stock Replies Only'. Perhaps it will be a measure of what we can expect from the (relatively) new Rudd Government when we learn how Liz's letter has, in fact, been handled.

That's by way of introducing the substance of today's note: which is, when it comes to matters of public policy or national endeavour, each of us can make a difference. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, remains a worthwhile enterprise.

For example, I know there are many matters that would concern all of us about present day Papua New Guinea. Whether it has been benign neglect, bordering on indifference, by the Australian Government over recent years to very difficult issues around governance, corruption, health, education, infrastructure and crime in PNG. I do not believe any of us who spent time in that country, and who built close relationships with its people, would feel anything other than a sense of profound sadness for the lives of Papua New Guineans which are blighted, especially by the degradation of public services.

Now the last thing we ought to be is patronising about such matters. But I do think we ought to have a view. I do think we should be engaged. I do think we need to articulate a position. And I believe we must  do something.

The first step along the way might be to decide how best that ordinary Australians like us (albeit extraordinary  in the sense that we care for PNG and its people) ought to be responding. I'd like to hear your views. You can post a comment below or you can email me using the link under my photo at left. Yes, we can all make a difference. But it will first take that minimal effort of thinking through what action might be proper and appropriate and meaningful.

There are many things already happening - from doctors spending their leave in rural health centres to shipments of books and materials for PNG schools. People like Norm Richardson and Paul Oates are coming up with great ideas to strengthen relationships between PNG and Australia. But can these efforts be better organised? And what more can we do? Your observations and thoughts will be taken seriously and we'll also commit to taking them further. Over to you.


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