Senate motion recognises ‘Angels’
Time for your shoulder to the wheel

Time government got serious about PNG

Roy Scragg Roy Frederick Rhodes Scragg was a distinguished Director of Health in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and 1970s. He’s now 84 and lives in the pleasant Adelaide suburb of Glenelg, from where he recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Adelaide Advertiser that deserves wider attention.

Noting that Federal Cabinet is about to consider the admission to Australia of workers from Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu, Dr Scragg writes: “PNG, Solomons and Timor have a historic and geographic link with Australia and should be the countries of first choice for workers…. PNG has a massive unemployment problem with educated young men and women from their comprehensive education and training programs unable to obtain employment.

“In 2007 Sir Michael Somare sought a worker arrangement with Australia and was knocked back. Every Papua New Guinean will be aggrieved at these well-served Pacific islanders being given priority to fill Australian worker gaps.”

If I may be oxymoronic for a moment, I think Roy Scragg’s remarks are moderate in the extreme. Despite Kevin Rudd’s high-minded ‘Port Moresby Declaration’ earlier this year, no major initiative of practical value has been forthcoming. Words like ‘Pacific partnership’ pour forth but action is idle.

As I’ve discovered myself through a number of attempts to communicate with the Prime Minister’s Office and with Pacific Minister Duncan Kerr - seeking to elicit specific detail of how the Rudd Government might enhance the PNG-Australia relationship - that responses received after long silences turn out to be hazy, hedged, jargon-burdened form letters: offensive in their sameness and frustrating in their failure to attend to the matters raised. Direct propositions meet vague generalisations. Cogent observations encounter feeble ambiguities. And serious questions inevitably fail to find answers.

What the Australian Government really does not get about the PNG-Australia relationship is the word ‘relationship’. The Papua New Guinea Association, and ASOPA PEOPLE, will stay on the case.

Photo: Roy Scragg in 1978 [CSIRO]

 

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