Do we need a new Australia – PNG body?
08 January 2009
As you can see in the column at right, an avalanche of commentary in the main supportive of my decision to quit the PNGAA presidency has given PNG ATTITUDE a busy 24 hours. I hope by now most contributors have received a brief reply from me.
The substance of what I’ve been saying to people is that while the journey to strengthen Australia's civil relationship with PNG has been interrupted by my leaving the PNGAA presidency, it is far from over.
We Australians who care about Papua New Guinea, and about its people, and who want to do something tangible to maintain and improve the relationship, will continue along that path.
Meanwhile, I no longer have to deal with and try to manage the narrow attitudes of some PNGAA senior members like this one, who, in a recent submission to the Association, observed: “I doubt if many members would agree that this Association was for the betterment of the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship… I believe most members would agree that helping current PNG is low on their agenda. They are more interested in talking and reading about pre-Independent PNG and socialising with people of their vintage.”
This is a minority view, but in my opinion a corrosive one: because the people who hold it effectively deny an interest in Papua New Guinea as it is They are old colonials and they behave like old colonials. Like most PNGAA members, I’d hoped the Association might evolve as a primary vehicle in the development of a closer civil relationship between Australia and PNG but, as it happened, the old guard didn’t want this, they refused to accommodate it as an adjunct to their own social networking needs. However, demolishing these people in an internal political wrangle wasn’t to my taste.
So it seems that we who are truly interested in the Australia-PNG relationship have to try other routes. I’ve been deluged with over 100 emails and other communications in the last day - far too many to properly assimilate let alone analyse – and this blog has had well over 1,700 page views, easily a record. [In an average day we'd get 100-150.]
Many correspondents and callers have in one way or another mentioned that work should start on establishing a new organisation with the primary goal of strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship and the secondary goal of better informing Australians about this relationship. Both worthy ideas. But, as readers would appreciate, such proposals have to be subjected to scrutiny and reality-tested, and I am by no means convinced that this is the way to go. A decade or so ago an Australia-PNG Friendship Society formed, only to quickly die.
So over the next few weeks I'll think about this and related issues, and in consultation with PNG ATTITUDE readers (that’s you) and other people try to define what more can be done - or should be done - in this area.
I for one am sorry you felt you had to resign. I know so very little of the situation - only what has been emailed to me - but it is apparent that there was a great deal more going on than has been aired. You were aware coming in to the PNGAA as you did - on a ticket for reform so to speak - that there would be some antipathy and opposition. So you were prepared for that - what else occurred will need never be made public and neither should it.
Several things have occurred to me as a consequence and the first is that you were elected to that position by a democratic vote of PNGAA members. The second is that since your election the number of PNGAA members has increased somewhat dramatically (many at your behest.) The third thing is that if a new election were to be held for the position of President I guess your support for a particular candidate would be a telling factor.
Now I know that you are not a vindictive person but me being a Christian and sometimes biblically orientated individual, I believe in an eye for an eye and 'do unto others etc'.
I imagine that the vision you had for the future role of the PNGAA will not be so easily transferred to another existing body/association or indeed a new 'purpose-built' organisation. Some of your initial drive and enthusiasm has probably waned. Well it would have if it were me.
In any case you have already indicated that your future energies could and should be better spent on your family and business.
None of any of that probably makes a great deal of sense to you but I did want to make contact and let you know that whatever you do/did is fine with me.
Posted by: Bob Davis | 12 January 2009 at 11:56 AM
Keep up the great work Keith. Both Marian and I are still bemused at the attitudes we are reading about. Only recently I was speaking to an ex PNG planter family who kept asking if I knew this planter and that planter. They were shocked when i said that, even though I knew of the people concerned, we did not socialise with them as being a teacher was regarded as a "do-gooder". I wasn't a missionary but a government teacher.
I think, based on the response to your chairmanship, some of these attitudes are still with us. PNG isn't in a good state but the people are still the same, and possibly more tolerant than some of the PNGAA members. All the best and keep ‘The Mail’ coming.
Posted by: Peter Comerford | 11 January 2009 at 03:54 PM
I'm not in Sydney at the moment and so I'm a little behind with current events. I was sorry to hear of your resignation from the PNGAA but I understand what you were up against.
Posted by: Rod Miller | 11 January 2009 at 06:06 AM
Clive Troy mentioned to me you had resigned your position in the PNGAA, because, as I understand it, of the lack of progress on the proposed directional changes to the organisation.
As a new member to the PNGAA, I considered the proposed changes necessary to ensure the continued relevance of the organisation.
However, because of my newness, I do not know how I can assist you and/or the organisation to this required direction, as proposed, to achieve the aims for which PNGAA is eminently suited.
Please contact me if you think either the NGVR/PNGVR Association or I can assist you and PNGAA through this trying situation.
Posted by: Phil Ainsworth | 11 January 2009 at 06:05 AM
Sori to read of your resignation. Your efforts much appreciated and will be missed.
Posted by: Allyn Hicks | 11 January 2009 at 06:04 AM
It’s all pretty much nostalgic reminiscing, isn’t it, much like Una Voce.
Your ideas of improving relationships between Australians and PNG’s is a radical departure from this tradition – a leap into the present.
If you want to do that you’ll need younger members, an injection of new blood, I would think.
Papua New Guineans are very different now from the way PNGAA members and many of your readers would remember them. There does not seem to be much interest among those people in present PNG.
Posted by: Tony Pryke | 11 January 2009 at 06:03 AM
Dear Kit...though worried at you friendships with Sherry Telley and Murray Blabwell, I did write in my Xmas TokTok that I had joined the PNGAAA to look at ways to benefit PNG and supported the new President and the new policies.
Surely there is room for all groups under the PNGAAA umbrella...baimilukim yu...
Posted by: Bob Cochrane | 11 January 2009 at 06:01 AM
The PNG Friendship Trust was active when I was based at the PNG Consulate General's office in Sydney. I believe if you ask Col Don Ramsay he will be able to tell you about some of it's founding members. I know that Dr Tom Selby passed on some years ago. He was the patron of the Trust. I also know that Friendship Trust donated educational materials to several primary schools in Morobe Province.
Sorry to hear of your departure from the PNGAA, but it is true that they only want to remember the bipo taim, maski long today. It's a pity that we cannot be ONE voice, to go forward and deliver something positive to the country we once and still do love, although we have very little influence now. We can still make a difference in other mediums, forays, volunteer organisation or through AVA.
I do not believe that the exchange of public servants will help improve the public service there, but I do believe in resurrecting the APS secondment arrangements to infiltrate the PNG Public Service and instil discipline, accountability, chain of command, internal audit functions and transparency, to direct and forge enduring friendships with the people at all levels and walks of life.
The rural people are being neglected with essential services, vagrancy is a huge problem, youth and mass unemployment, brain drain to greener pastures. If Bougainville can successfully seek autonomy, why can't Papua Besena be resurrected to give the Papuan people pride in their once beautiful Southern Region...em tasol... mi toktok tumas.... marum...
Posted by: Bernard Oberleuter | 11 January 2009 at 05:59 AM
As an eighty year ol "Kiap" I have listened to the obfuscation and rumours bandied around upon the election of Keith Jackson as President of the PNGAA.Whilst supporting his election I was hesitant at expressing my delight until I could appreciate his conduct of the role. I also held an underlying view that the PNGAA had to seek the services of a person of the younger generation with ability and new ideas if PNGAA was to have any future.
Keith has exhibited innovations in the direction and expansion of the Association in keeping with progressives in the younger generation who are essential elements for PNGAA's future conduct and existence. We of the old guard shall in a relatively short time disappear and the younger generations's ideas should not now be obstructed by long held practices of the past.
I regret Keith Jackson's resignation and abhor the lack of support he experienced. Who now from the younger members with ability and vision put up his/her hand to fill the vacant position. Whoever it is he/she would be well advised to closely look at the proposals Keith had for the future of PNGAA
Posted by: John Norton | 10 January 2009 at 01:21 PM
I’m just a little nobody of no great importance but with a love of a country an who feels some little responsibility for what is a place I once called home.
The PNGAA old guard always frightened me a little and I kept my comments to myself. In my small neck of the woods, PNG and its associated PNGAA and ASOPA are talked about with pride, support and corrections of perceived ideas gathered from the media.
There is no need to divide but give back some. Keith you did, as many others do. The old guard are entitled to their socializing but should surely also now have the time to leave something worthy to be carried on into a long future.
Posted by: Anonymous [name supplied] | 10 January 2009 at 03:43 AM
Thanks for the latest Mail. I am disappointed that you were given a rough time by the dodo brigade as I had high hopes that your ability would stir up the Association to make it more relevent to ex-TPNG staff. Congratulations on a good effort.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank you for your friendship over the last few years, which I certainly appreciate . I am certan you have much more to offer to the ex-TPNG staff and I wish you well .
Posted by: Bill Wilson | 10 January 2009 at 03:38 AM
Jean and her husband Neville already get 'The Mail' newsletter each month and that will continue (the January issue is about to be circulated by email).
Most days I update the PNG ATTITUDE blog on the web and people can go there whenever they wish.
These services are not subscription services, I provide them so we can keep in touch with each other and keep up to date on PNG related matters.
If any blog reders wish to get 'The Mail', drop me an email and I'll add you to our growing distribution list.
Posted by: Keith Jackson | 09 January 2009 at 04:05 PM
We were interested to hear of your resignation from PNGAA and read the PNG ATTITUDE blog. Neville and I were sorry to hear of your disgust with the attitude of some members of the PNGAA committee.
We always enjoy reading Una Voce; but it is all very nostalgic and about old times, times long before we went to PNG in 1961. While it is interesting to read about times past and catch up on social history, we have been disappointed that almost no current affairs relating to PNG appear in the magazine. I guess it reflects the interests of those who send material to the editor.
We would very much like to regularly receive both PNG ATTITUDE and your blog. Do you require a subscription? We would be happy to send one if you need it.
Posted by: Jean Thomson | 09 January 2009 at 03:51 PM
I am astonished to hear that Keith Jackson AM, a man of infinite wisdom and a person of proven leadership, whose grasp on human relations is unexcelled, could be white-anted by antique has-beens who are terrified of losing their stranglehold on the progress of the PNGAA.
They prefer to bask in their own fading candelight while their wicks sputter in the meltdown of their substance. They strive with cupped hands around the guttering flame, desperately seeking to thwart the merest breath of fresh air.
All clubs and societies die of old age, like ours. Let's not send our geriatics to the Olympics to keep our PNGAA alive. Let's face the fact that our grand children are better equipped to master change and progress.
Posted by: Hal Holman OL OAM | 08 January 2009 at 09:23 PM
Masta Kit. Happy birthday............. So, what a sad event.
I have read, re-read and re-re-read all the comments and items, and have come to a final conclusion that I have to , as I have done in the past, and will no doubt do again in the future, disagree with your latest decisions/actions, i.e. you should not have resigned! In fact, I would love you to withdraw your resignation!
Clearly there are numerous comments that have an element of truth. There is nothing wrong with nostalgia, and there certainly is nothing wrong in trying to resuscitate a dying body that is hell bent on oblivion. Do the members of the old guard really believe that people of our generation have nothing better to do than perpetrate the old ideas without having ideas and visions of our own?
I am currently president of a dying group and it has taken six months to get the goals of winding up or amalgamation with another dying group off the agenda and having a new concept of "future directions" put in their place......so I sympathise with you!
My hope is that if your resignation is really irrevocable, that you will at least remain a member of PNGAA, and stand again for President at the next AGM. Judging from the support you have received so far, you will romp home and perhaps even have runs on the board from your efforts in connection with recognition for Kiaps and the Montevideo Maru projects.
So, old mate, best wishes from us......perhaps its time we cracked another bottle of red.
Posted by: Col Booth | 08 January 2009 at 10:40 AM
I've responded to Ross in these words: "Thanks for your post and, first of all, let me assure you I feel no anger. Whether I'm arrogant or not, I guess that's a matter for other people to say. Any denial from me would be suspect I suppose.
"Over the last day or so a great number of people have put to me (you can read some posts go this effect on the blog) that a new association with the primary objective of stregthening the A-PNG relationship might be established. I am by no means convinced by this but it's an idea worth exploring.
"The PNGAA consultation was not a fait accompli. It was a fair dinkum effort to get the main issues out there for debate. A number of the matters initially mooted would not have gone to members for a vote simply because, in the course of consultation, they seemed too divisive. But the point is that the members would have a vote and they would have decided. It may still happen.
'That said, you're entitled to express your views and I thank you for doing that."
Posted by: Keith Jackson | 08 January 2009 at 08:42 AM