Australia, stop encouraging PNG corruption!
Michael Somare on the edge? Let’s get real

PNG Platitude: Reacting to Reg & his mates


HOW WILL Julia Gillard help PNG to become more independent and fight corruption through good governance if her operating agency in PNG is closed?

I am not known as a fervid AusAID supporter by any means, but if we in Oz and Julia Gillard and her Minister for Foreign Affairs are to be of help to our mates in PNG, how may this be facilitated in any other way but a material one; where the agreed material help comes with relevant advice and instruction?

By Reg Renagi’s own admission, his own generation of educated professionals and leaders of society are so weak, lacking in guts and imagination, and dishonest as not only to stall progress, but to send it into reverse.

How may Australia help in this regard, unless by the offer and the implementation of assistance directed at the problem? By hypnotism? By a national Help PNG Prayer Day?

The river of weakness and lack of resolution runs deep in PNG, as these educated people well know. Who in PNG will get up and turn the nation around?

All any of these people do, with such few exceptions as to be counted on fingers of one hand, is endlessly talk and propose and suggest. You are self-proclaimed champion boxers who spend your lives hitting the punching-bag but always shy away from the ring and the real challenge.

And sit back to watch the crooks become stronger and more numerous week by week.

Reg and his fellow educated professionals in PNG are musicians who play many tunes; music played according to who is listening, not music played from passionate feeling.

I find this immensely disappointing, whilst at the same time maintaining a full heart and high regard, in fact love, for so many old friends and their families who live in the villages.

These people have never had the opportunities that Reg and his mates have enjoyed, and they suffer a continuing diminution in conditions of daily life. Why? Because the educated generation has failed them absolutely and miserably.

We PNG-acquainted outsiders who are not able to do any more than talk and write are in many cases people who have worked hard and long as subordinates within PNG-managed institutions.

We have been putting up positive ideas, some of us for years, and there are some slight signs of acceptance - for instance, changes in the management at AusAID and Stephen Smith's announcement about funding for education and health through church-managed institutions.

These signs show perhaps, and while never acknowledged, that our ideas have caught the eye of those who control Australia’s inputs and aid delivery to PNG.

Forget about endless contributions on blogs, get together and make plans and actually do something instead of practising your famous Melanesian Way - talk, talk, seminars, 2050 programs, all this is simply horseshit.

When did we ever see anything positive come out of these magnificent plans? The Eight-Point plan, for instance? Plans, plans and more plans, accompanied by seminars and two-day stays at fancy locations. Tokwin tasol. Karana anina lasi. [Just empty air!]

Until you actually start kicking arse and getting people to come to work on time five days a week, accepting responsibility and working hard for that beautiful place which is your home, none of the problems you continually refer to are going to go away.

If you and your peer-group of some tens of thousands of middle class, educated citizens can’t hack it, the war's already over.

And the ghosts of people like Sgt Major Katui MM and Sgt Major Soa Ubia MM, who really cared, and who really fought and delivered for their country without the benefit of university educations and long white socks, will remain restless, disappointed, homeless spirits forever.


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Reginald Renagi

I agree with Moses that the educated people should work together to turn the country around, but this is every citizen's job from PM Somare to the villager in rural PNG.

This collective strategy of getting everyone working together and not just the middle-class doing an honest day's work will take a long time, but change; no matter how hard and long will eventually come to PNG.

But it is only one approach. To improve good governance, the PNG workforce must work in synergy. This will be a long-term strategy and must be consolidated over time from a domestic resource-base than externally from Australia though its aid program.

Reginald Renagi

John Fowke either avoids answering the big issue questions stimulated by the article: "What should Australia do about PNG", or denies that AusAID is an ongoing problem.

He does not quite say what Australia should do about PNG, but gets stuck into a scapegoat target group: the so-called PNG middle-class, as if such a class system exists at all. Not now, but maybe in the future.

The response would have been helpful if it touched upon certain key areas requiring some change. So do we still keep AusAID considering its ineffectiveness to date ('boomerang aid'), or do we try to improve it, hoping it brings good results in future.

Reginald Renagi

Australia under Julia Gillard is a sea change.

The ALP will need three new policies to sell to the Australian public and it just might win this years' election for Julia Gillard: [1] Cut PNG aid levels to zero and increase trade by 100 percent; [2] Do more for its own Indigenous Australians; and [3] Pull Australian troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas.

Keeping troops in Afghanistan will not make Australia any safer but a very unsecure country in future.

As new PM, Julia Gillard now needs a new future foreign aid policy towards PNG and the Pacific mini states in 2010. A fresh new look is required at the present aid arrangements with PNG.

Gillard need to go one step further than Kevin Rudd and all her Australian predecessors have not done in the past. The bilateral relations between PNG and Australia must be strengthened with real tangible development outcomes.

The new foreign policy shift from here on is to cut Aid to PNG. Australia must now take a tough policy stand against the PNG government's use of AusAid funding to complement its domestic development budget. A new development formula must now be drawn up as part of a new independent aid program review.

For years there AusAid has not had any clear satisfactory outcomes for many reasons. One main reason being the inability of successive PNG governments to not properly factor AusAid funding into its overall strategic planning.

PNG must now properly account for it in its internal budgetary allocations for key impact development projects.

This can be shown in the government's Budgetary's Public Investment Programs and be properly expended for rural development initiatives. This is one way, the other option is a more revolutionary approach that Julia Gillard can activate this year.

As part of a new bilateral partnership arrangement with PNG, Australia should totally cut its aid funding.

Further, as a compensatory strategy, Australia should instead increase trade levels with PNG by 100 percent and proportionally with other small Pacific mini states.

This will enable PNG and the smaller Pacific countries develop a degree of autonomy and freedom to develop independently according to each country's potential.

These smaller nations will be able to pay their own way through revenue earned from trading their own resource commodities than depend on Australian financial aid for years to come.

The way forward in future for PNG and the smaller Pacific nations is for Australia to develop their respective domestic capacity by increasing the trade volume with each country and less on direct monetary aid as is the case for many years.

More trade, and not more aid is the future solution for PNG with Australia's support of her smaller Pacific neighbours.

For PNG, Australia's new aid policy and arrangements will make PNG more independent without forever relying a lot on free money that indirectly promotes less accountability on our leaders and better effective management of its annual budget for the wellbeing of citizens.

Bruce Copeland

Peace Reg. You are a good and wise man. Your articles in the media and letters to the editor are well written and provide good advice.

You are accountable only to the people of PNG. Much of what you write sets out contemporary issues that form part of a national think tank.

You have an intellectual approach and could be tougher. The people who criticise you today will be your supporters tomorrow.

Those people who criticised me 5 years ago have disappeared without a trace back into the great south land.

The trick is to keep going nomatter what.

Reginald Renagi

Hi John,

Thanks mate, and how have you been?
Have being very busy myself running training courses non-stop since Jan 2010.

Recently had lunch with Gramham Pople, Malum Nalu and General Anthony Huai at the Weigh Inn before Graham's story ran in the local papers and on PNG Attitude. Graham told me that you just passed through so I missed my second chance again to break bread with you, share a ice-cold SP beer and spin some good yarns that may become future PNG Attitude posts.

By the way, you overreated in your article. I was only trying to gauge reader's opinion about Australia helping PNG more in future by not constantly 'spoon-feeding' its former colony. I saw cuting aid and boosting trade instead may do the trick. Theres many more strategies DFAT can use in future but it the free handout (so it may seem...) approach is too plain materialistic.

Will just see the responses from our friends on the blog before I directly address some interesting salients points you raised. This way the ensuing discussions are balanced so we are not seen to be misusing KJ blog by making comments for the sake of saying something different from the other guy.

But I guess its what blogs are for. I do not see this as wasting one's time, but sharing some good ideas with others for possible solutions without saying one's views are better than the other.

There is more ways to skin a cat as the saying goes ...

Robin Lillicrap

The recurring theme of corruption and ineffective governance in PNG resulting in loss of many of the idylls sought and fought for in generations past, and nagging doubts as to the proper administration and application of aid, triggered a recollection concerning the methodology of late 20th and present 21st century changes to “democratic and constitutional process.”

I dug around and rediscovered an interview with Joan Veon from 2009. It goes a long way toward exposing and explaining the lamented lack of results from lobbying and representation done (in the PNG arena) by so many of Attitude’s contributors.

There is in play a series of events that are way beyond anything most of us dreamed let alone talked about in the 60’s and 70’s.

Joan Veon is an author, journalist and expert on globalisation. A couple of videos here:



John Fowke

Bruce - I recently made peace with you by email so as to cease receiving the daily frothing tide of often very eccentric and fanciful emailed opinion.

Now, amongst some four responses you've already made today to my piece on PNG Attitude, you say:
"John - Having read your condemnation of Reg Renagi and his mates, I have pondered on the views expressed. It seems you have offered no practical suggestions on how his educated generation can act to make a difference."

This goes to show just how erratic, self-centred and verging on plain daft your whole mental and written output is. You are obviously not only, as Reg also is, along with Paul Oates, one of the two or three most constant contributors to PNG Attitude in terms of o.p.s and comments, but also by obvious implication, a daily if not hourly reader of this worthwhile organ.

How is it then, that you have missed the numerous pieces I have published both on PNG Attitude in the past six months, and in The National, Wantok and the Sunday Chronicle.

To say nothing of the bi-monthly conservative magazine Quadrant here in Oz (The Monthly wasn't interested, Keith) setting out just such plans and recommendations.

Plans, which at minor personal expense but at some expenditure in terms of time and travel within PNG, I have carried to a great many people personally, verbally [P and in the form of printed briefs over the past six months.

This campaign of mine has eventuated after a period of some two years during which I have been in touch with the movers and shakers of the Public Service Reform Advisory Group [PSRAG], chaired early on by Sir Barry Holloway, later by Brown Bai, in relation to ways and means of re-empowering ordinary people without recourse to unconstitutional methods; and ways to re-invigorate the provision of basic services in the Provinces.

My contact with PSRAG, and with one or two other agencies and influential individuals - notably with the Leader of the Opposition, three current MPs, the INA, and other individuals with professional experience in matters related to government and infrastructure/service provision - all resulted in a big zero.

Nothing, nada, nil, nogat wanpla samting kamap long displa.

So I resorted to my pen and the press, as mentioned above. Here there has been some comment forthcoming, at least, and one hopes that thinking has been stimulated.

You have missed all this published material, it seems, although you did read the piece in the Sunday Chronicle a week ago, remember? You liked it, remember? And it was about exactly the same thing as emphasised in my recent Attitude piece, although said nicely and without reference to that dire piece of amateur philosophy, The Melanesian Way.

To revert to a childish but evocative phrase from my schooldays, pull your woolly head in, Bruce, and stick to what you know and what you yourself experience.

What you write about conditions of life in PoM and about the HIV/AIDS problem is meaningful and well-expressed. Don't stray or you prove yourself to be the fool that many assume you are.

Whilst Keith's tolerance and good nature are boundless, especially in the good cause that is PNG Attitude, I am not such an equable person, nor so short of things to do that this sort of silly correspondence constitutes amusement.

If informed, logical and productive, even if heated, discussion and exchange of views, cannot arise on Attitude, then I dips me lid an' sez bamahuta iboudiai.

Bruce Copeland

John - Having read your condemnation of Reg Renagi and his mates, I have pondered on the views expressed. It seems you have offered no practical suggestions on how his educated generation can act to make a difference.

Let us start at the start. Economists place PNG on a scale of 2 out of 6 in development. East Timor would be level 1 with no manufacturing.

PNG has some fabricating industries with a dependence on the sale of raw materials. Japan/America would be level 6 with masses of secondary industries to high levels of technology.

PNG is locked into the second lowest level. Reg and his mates can have no effect on that. Growth of industry will never occur in this country. No nation will ever set up a car factory in PNG or a rocket launching site. The country is too unstable with too small a population.

There is a dependence on sale of raw materials and purchase of manufactured good from overseas. Reg and his mates can have no effect on that.

There could be greater production of rice. But that is being looked into by the Department of agriculture.

There is no possibility of foreign aid being replaced by trade. What would overseas countries want? Fish – already a major canning industry. Logging – already tied up. LNG – ready to be started up with massive problems.

The political sector has already been tied up by cliques of
politicians. It is out of the control of the community. So too the public service.

Reg and his mates have one major problem in daily living and that is to put food on the table for family and to keep a roof over their heads that will not be sold from over them.

The overriding emotion of people in this country is a feeling they can do nothing to make a difference. Political scientists call it alienation. They are like dry leaves pushed by the wind.

The pension of soldiers is pitifully low. Reg and his PNGDF mates would spend their pensions on basics within the first week and starve the rest of the time until next pension day.

Soldiers have been retrenched without pay over many years. They can do nothing. Correction officers have had their pensions stopped with no reasons given. Someone probably stole their contributions.

Now the housing of Port Moresby is becoming an issue. What does a family do when evicted from their housing commission house where they have lived all their lives? And paid their rent.

Children are going through school with no hope of employment. They can not go back to their village as there is no land for them.

Corruption and poverty are dragging everyone down. Reg is is probably suffering in retirement on a low pension. He no longer drives a car. He has grandchildren to send to school.

He is the president of the school board of his children’s school. He supports HIV/AIDS awareness. And he tries to make a difference by writing in the media about matters that concern him.

PNG is not the land of the brave and free where people have only to grasp opportunities. There are few legal opportunities. Most opportunities are illegal and involve stealing money.

John, give Reg and his mates a break. For most older PNG men and women it is just a holding action until death. People like Reg are doing what they can and what their resources will allow.

The average age of men in this country is 53 years. Stress and diet are dragging men and women down.

And Papuans are feeling alienated by highlanders who are slowly taking over Port Moresby real estate.

Bruce Copeland

John - If I went to an AIDS conference 10 years ago and proposed family as the focus of the PNG National HIV/AIDS response, and did nothing else, we would be up to our armpits in condoms by now.

Proposals without an operational strategy cannot succeed.

Reg - I am interested mainly in supporting the National HIV/AIDS Response. Cutting down on aid and increasing trade is not what happens in the world. It is what university students write on posters and hold up outside the world trade conferences. And no-one cares.

Aid is cheaper than trade when it boomerangs.

Reginald Renagi

I observe that some Aussies in this blog also try to justify their views by pontificating to readers, but really what they say is mere platitudes, or latent patronising.

This is equally disappointing. At times I sense they try to be genuine in their so-called advice through here, but in fact do not give a damn about what can be done at the government to government level to enhance the bilateral relationship between PNG and Australia.

Reginald Renagi

John - What operating agency are you talking about? The Australian High Commission (Trade is also situated within there I believe) represents the Australian government and it is up to date (I hope) with all PNG/Australia foreign relations strategies.

The AHC should be well placed with its PNG counterpart to better advise Julia Gillard and her team on ways to greatly enhance the efficacy of the AusAID program.

It will get better with the times. This aid strategy can still be substituted with a special trade white paper by the new ALP team with Julia Gillard in the driver's seat.

John, you missed the whole gist of the article, or should I say missed the point of the title and discussion.

Don't attack the messenger, but the message content. One big way to alleviate political corruption on a grand scale is stop the aid (mere handouts) and instead boost trade between PNG and Australia.

Bruce, you too missed the big picture and just want to push your pet subject here on this blog. What's your view on Australia cutting aid and increasing the trade volume between our two countries.

I support direct funding support to the churches and other faith-based organisations as it will do the most direct good to the community as recently reported in the media.

Peter Warwick

Being the pedant that I am, the words are: Hear! Hear!

Or more correctly: Harim! Harim!

Trevor Shelley

Here! Here!

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