The matriarch of Mindre village speaks out
Relocated B'ville villagers in dire straits

Your chance to input Australia's PNG policy


SAM RIORDAN is a bright young man who works with Australia’s shadow foreign minister, Julie Bishop, as an adviser specialising in PNG affairs.

Sam accompanied Ms Bishop on her recent successful visit to Papua New Guinea.  And, by the way, I’m told he’s a keen reader of PNG Attitude.

On Thursday he met with my colleague Bob Lawrence in Canberra, and he’ll soon be paying me a visit in Sydney to discuss matters of concern to all of us who read and contribute to PNG Attitude.

So here’s an invitation, especially but not exclusively to those of you who are in Papua New Guinea: What issues would you like me to raise with Sam Riordan?  What policies do you think the Australian government should be pursuing in PNG?  In what areas do you think the Australian government is failing at present?  What are the priorities for action?

Now I think any of us who read this website regularly would have a pretty good idea of the answers to those questions, but it’s probably useful to focus on them in the context of conveying a strong message to Australia’s alternative government, which sits just a breath away from taking office.

I must say that, along with many other observers, I’ve been impressed with the way in which Julie Bishop has come to appreciate the importance of the PNG – Australia relationship.

Kevin Rudd was supposed to be the key man but, as one reader pointed out recently, he’s been too busy pursuing a seat for Australian on the UN Security Council to give the region the attention it merits.

I’ve met with Julie Bishop’s advisers on a couple of times previously, and I’ve been impressed both with their grasp of PNG affairs and their ability to make things move on the policy front.

Last year, on a visit to Canberra, I met Richard Marles, the parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs, who subsequently penned a number of articles for PNG Attitude.

These were savaged by readers who saw them as evasive and uninformative and, despite his senior adviser indicating Mr Marles would make a further response, he did not and that seemed to be the end of the relationship.

But with the Gillard government faltering, here’s another opportunity for readers to provide an input to Australia’s political thinking on PNG.

The invitation is out there and I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Don Tapio

Bring back ECP [the Enhanced Cooperation Program involving Australian policing assistance], please.

The grassroots people in PNG need this program if any aid from Australia is going to filter down. I know every honest hard working Papua New Guinean will embrace it.

It's the crooks and hyenas roaming the corridors of Waigani who detest and fear this nation saving intervention.

Bring Back ECP please.

Colin Huggins

Phil - "Exotic Aore Island beckons the chalkies."

The 64/65 intake of CEO's at ASOPA are having a reunion in Vanuatu very soon - see the reunion blog for details. It will be interesting to hear what their thoughts on the place are.

I believe one of their number does make comments still on this blog.

To me, it seems such a tragedy that PNG is not promoting tourism the way it should and to make tourism a safe experience. An opportunity lost, I believe.

Just look at Bali, Phuket and Fiji as examples. Tourism promotes money and work for the locals.

Jeffrey Febi

AusAID's money has not made much difference to the lives of those people in rural PNG. It's been a long time and AusAID needs to shift focus more to rural areas.

It could try the following:

1. Nationwide rural water supply program.

2. Partner with churches to fund and run health clinics and schools. Select and train locals to become teachers and community health workers who'll return to work in their communities.

3. Set up a foundation to provide scholarships for rural children. This must be different from the PATTAF or other scholarship programs coz they do not serve rural students well.

4. Help to solve the rural road and transportation problems

Phil Fitzpatrick

Colin Huggins mentioned a while back that his neighbours had just returned from a trip to Vanuatu and had had a great time.

One reason for this is that they felt safe and secure. You don't see razor wire all over the place in Vanuatu.

To get overseas business partnerships up and going in PNG, not to mention the very lucrative tourist trade, a similar situation to Vanuatu needs to prevail.

The only way to do this is to have a major spring clean within the police service, dump all the dead and rotten wood, spruce the honest and dedicated survivors up with new uniforms and a sense of pride and then give them all the resources they need.

I had reason to deal with some police in a rural headquarters a couple of months ago and while they were generally good blokes, they were all out of uniform, unwashed and unshaven, stoned on buai and grounded because they didn't have fuel for their clapped out vehicles.

That sort of thing makes businessmen and tourists run for the hills.

Another thing that occurs to me is the bad press that miners and oil companies get in PNG because of the bad practises of a few rogue outfits.

Mining and energy projects can bring huge benefits to primarily rural areas. A lot of the good ones act as defacto governments.

There must be a way of harnessing the goodwill of the responsible companies in some sort of social contract, devised and undertaken before a project starts.

AusAID could make sure Australian companies were signed up to such contracts - Bob Brown might be able to tell them how to do it.

Glick Lambea

Canberra's PNG Policy should focus on the following areas:

1. Introduce competition in state-owned enterprises, especially power generation

2. Help PNG authorities to reduce impediments to doing business in PNG

3. As PNG's per capita GDP increases, decrease Australian aid to PNG - we won't need the aid

4. Increase the number of postgraduate level engineering and science studengts into Australian universities

5. Help PNG law makers reform state institutions to minise the endemic corruption

6. More capacity building in health, education and law and justice

Max Aitken

Some of you may find an article by Rowan Callick in today's Weekend Australian (page 4, Inquirer section) interesting.

Having lived & worked in PNG over the past 35+ years, seems clear to me that the major issue is poor governance - no surprise there, and I know it's not easy to address.

Beyond that, the private sector (especially PNG owned SMEs) must be encouraged to grow and become more competitive.

Sustainable jobs are desperately needed; and they will need to be generated by a growing, vibrant & competitive private sector. But, handing out cheap credit is not a sustainable answer.

So; what could AusAID focus on in my view? :

- encouraging/supporting the PNG authorities to implement policies, laws & regulations that encourage and support private sector investment (especially by PNG firms);

- encouraging/supporting the PNG authorities to allow greater competition to current State monopolies in power, ports, international internet gateway, etc. The hard won battle to allow competition & private sector investment into mobile telecoms has had huge positive benefits in PNG.

- exploring, & where feasible, supporting the use of private sector players to deliver what are commonly regarded as key public services (such as health & education) using output-based aid approaches. A senior PNG diplomat said at a conference a couple of years back - "SP Brewery can get beer to remote parts of PNG; but our government seems incapable of getting basic medicines to the same people".

- a huge increase in support for the rehabilitation, maintenance & upgrading of roads, ports, water, & power infrastructure (using public-private partnerships and/or output-based aid approaches where feasible)

- a huge increase in support for education & training (especially vocational training); and doing this mainly in reputable Aussie-based institutions in the short/medium term. PNG government's domestic institutes are in a mess; there's no way they can address the country's needs in the immediate future

Paul Oates

One more suggestion to go with everyone else's:

Every program funded by Australia must first establish a jointly agreed (donor/receiver) assessment benchmark for measuring success and be prepared to be effectively and independently audited (e.g., by commercial auditors) and transparently (e.g., by T.I.) reported on.

No deal/No cash.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I think I'm with Martyn on this.

A clear, simple English statement, without any spin or bureaucratese, about what AusAID will do for PNG under the Coalition is required. A draft for public comment, both in Australia and PNG, would be a good start.

Be open and accountable - discuss publicly both successes and failures without bias or fear.

Really get rid of the need for all the repetitive research and reports from parasitic consultants.

Use resources in-country unless there is no other option.

Get practical people on the ground in PNG.

Not only address the formal and informal aspects of the PNG economy but also the non-cash subsistence economy during planning.

Improving the quality of subsistence food and commodities is essential in a country where 80% of the population live that way.

Get rural communications up to scratch as quickly as possible, especially using mobile phone and broadband networks. Use rural schools as a focus here.

Bolster access to independent legal advice so that people can take on loggers and the more feral miners more effectively. Stand by the people who do this.

Help PNG build regional hospitals, staff and equip them adequately and set up large scale health education.

Bite the bullet and lean hard on Indonesia about the mess in West Papua.

Tap into resources like PNG Attitude and its readers.

Lastly, don't assume that problems in PNG only have an economic solution. Embrace the common people in partnership.

Trevor Freestone.

I hope Sam is going to spend quite some time with you as there are so many issues to be sorted out.

PNG has to sort her problems out for herself so Australia has to work out ways to assist and encourage her to make the necessary changes.

So many issues but surely the two main ones are the disregard for the villagers' rights and the lack of respect for the environment by mining and logging companies.

Then there is law and order. Businesses suffer, and tourism suffers. PNG will not be a great country with huge potential until this issue is sorted out.

The undermanned Police are frustrated because they are not willing to arrest gang members when they know the gang members have friends who are only too willing to attack the policemen's and policewomen's families.

I guess the best aid Australia can give is assistance with the upcoming election's to ensure they are conducted honestly in the hope that everyone will now refuse the lollies and vote for the best candidates.

I hope PNG is willing to ask for Australia's help with the election.

I don't dare ask that you mention AusAID unless Sam is staying with you for a fortnight.

Martyn Namorong

Can someone tell what the Purpose of AusAID is?

1. Neo-colonisation

2. Just filling gaps

3. Developing PNG

The fact that AusAID has existed for decades in PNG does indicate to me that it is about the first two.

There is no doubt that it has done a lot of good work but one would regard such work as mere tokenism if fundamental questions of development aren't addressed.

Obviously, it is the government of PNG's responsibility to develop its country. But if AusAID claims to be a development partner then I guess it isn't a fruitful partnership.

The fact that some major reforms in PNG's health, education, law and justice sectors, etc are backed by AusAID money means that failures or successes in those sectors reflect partly on AusAID.

To meaningfully educate our people, the education system needs to produce candidates who have the capacity to participate in both the formal and informal economies.

To reduce crime and poverty refer to the preceding paragraph.

To address public health issues, emphasis needs to be on addressing the push factors that cause admissions, e.g., lack of education, poor housing and lack of access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. Respiratory diseases are the largest killers in PNG and that is related to people having fireplaces inside their homes.

Empower people. Just let them know that its OK to protest against illegal logging or environmental damage or corruption.

Let them know that, in the event that they choose to stand up against an unjust and corrupt government, Australia will be there to support them. Unfortunately, the experience of Bougainville shows how Australia sided against the people.

Finally, do not forget the West Papuans. The issue of West Papua is linked to the security and well being of PNG. We share a land border.

Barbara Short

I have the feeling that many of the PNG-owned and run businesses need help.

We constantly hear of PNG-owned businesses not "doing a good job". This then gets called corruption, etc

They call the owners corrupt but in actual fact they are just inept and there is no competition to raise efficiency levels.

I think there must be some way that Australia can help these PNG-owned businesses do a better job. Often they have trouble getting supplies and lack management and financial skills.

In the old days I thought the government departments used Public Works people to do their jobs. But now the work seems to go to PNG contractors. But these people need help.

AusAID evidently has a British company that it uses to check work done by these contractors.

Surely there is some way that Australian companies could work together with PNG companies, help them with know-how and management skills, and not rip them off.

Peter Kranz

Well I have a vested interest - but fix Kundiawa airstrip and build a decent road to Upper Simbu; reopen Kegsugl airstrip and encourage eco-tourism development.

Help in one place could be echoed in many.

I also suggest the encouragement of grassroots business initiatives - especially for women and young people - by loans for start-up projects. Not just hand-outs.

Maybe small, but significant enough to help start a small enterprise or local project.

Bilums, gourmet organic food and artifacts could be a good start.

Plus also non-commercial initiatives such as local health care, child and maternal health projects, AIDS, TB and Malaria clinics etc.

Train local doctors and health workers - and pay them to be stationed in remote areas.

Give decent clean water and power supplies to villages.

And roads.

Hell - the list is endless.

Paul Oates

Suggestions for issues to raise with Sam Riordan:

Handouts are not the answer

No one ever wants charity. People` may come to need charity at some stage in their life but long term giveaways do not promote self esteem and friendly relations.

Many Australian’s do not understand the principle of reciprocity that is common in many other cultures. If you give too much you are despised because the receiver cannot reciprocate the gifts.

PNG people are prepared to work and work hard. However they need to see that the results of their hard work will be valued and not be frittered away by corrupt leaders, slick businessmen and foreign interests.

The key to PNG’s future is with her youth who comprise a large percentage of the population.

The nation’s youth have been set some poor examples in the past and desperately need clearly defined incentives and objectives to work to achieve.

A significant contribution to PNG would be to encourage the value adding of PNG’s primary products to be set up in PNG and owned by PNG people.

Processing of marine products by foreign companies could just become another way of exploiting PNG’s natural resources.

Promoting foreign owned tuna canneries processing fish caught by foreign owned vessels and then having the product and the profits shipped overseas doesn’t encourage local business.

Australians buy manufactured wooden articles from foreign companies who extract PNG’s timber products and then convert them into furniture, which is then claimed to come from the country that makes the furniture.

Instead, encourage PNG owned businesses to manufacture the furniture in PNG employing PNG people.

Provide some genuine export incentives to help locally owned PNG business’s to export to Australia.

There could easily be a logical trading bloc set up between Australia and her near north neighbours.

For example, many Australian primary producers buy very expensive copra meal to help feed our stock over winter.

Why not have this product from PNG better promoted and made in PNG by PNG businesses?

All it takes is to think outside the square.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)