Namorong offers candid views on Aussie politicians
30 May 2012
BY KEITH JACKSON
AS MARTYN NAMORONG FLIES OUT OF CANBERRA for Brisbane’s warmer climes this morning, he can sit back in his seat and contemplate a highly successful visit to Australia’s national capital.
And he will be reflecting on the calibre of some of the leading Australian political figures he met; being particularly unimpressed by parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, Richard Marles MP.
Take the Truth to Australia was planned as an opportunity for a young Papua New Guinean intellectual to provide Australians with a somewhat different perspective of PNG than they may have been accustomed to previously.
A first-hand view of how the situation looks from the streets and from the villages.
Generally, Martyn’s messages fell on fertile ground.
The messages that Australia must do better for PNG in the area of more precisely targeting aid, reviewing how Australian resources companies operate, trying to understand Melanesian culture and identity, and ensuring that the people-to-people relationship works more productively.
Martyn was impressed by the interest shown in PNG amongst the politicians they met, as well as being somewhat surprised of the ignorance of PNG issues shown by a number of them, even by some members of the prestigious foreign affairs sub-committee.
This speaks of the failure of people like parliamentary secretary Marles to communicate more effectively, even to members of Parliament, about the strategic importance of the Australia-PNG relationship.
And the fact that foreign minister Bob Carr has yet to make his first foray to our nearest neighbour amplifies the “benign neglect” that Martyn Namorong wrote of in last week’s eloquent and stirring article in the Melbourne Age.
Early this morning Martyn 'tweeted' short grabs of his impressions of some of the political meetings he had yesterday. A couple of his comments are scathing:
I hope Bob Carr's advisor [Ed Vrkic] got the message I conveyed. No excuses for future stuff-ups.
Got great gifts [of support] from Senators Bob Brown and Anne McEwen.
Will never forget Alan Griffin MP; got real practical advice. Thanks dude.
Julie Bishop has certainly done a good job understanding PNG but she still has gaps.
If you thought John Howard was bad for Melanesia, try talking to Richard Marles.
Wherever he has gone on this tour, Martyn has spoken with elegance and intelligence about the real PNG. And because he is not a diplomat or politician and did not have to adopt weasel words, he could 'tell the truth' about the real situation on the ground.
This has been both a refreshing advocacy and a required realism.
In every one of his 10 or so radio and television interviews, he has given his audience clear insights into PNG as it really is.
Martyn is in Brisbane until he returns home on Sunday – more meetings, more speeches and more media.
He's been rather too busy to undertake any serious writing in the last little while – and, like you I expect, I eagerly wait to read in more detail his views of Australia and the people he met here.
But I think we can get a taste of what is to come from these brief notes on Facebook:
I have never felt so much responsibility my entire life. I have had to present to our colonial power the story of a people whose 50,000 year history has predominantly been one of an independent sovereign people....
Australians think PNG is a problematic place because they want to understand PNG from a western perspective.
Once you try to make them understand PNG from a Melanesian perspective they become defensive of their western world view and switch to 'patronising mode'.
An appropriate response for a Melanesian is to remind Australians that their western model of development has largely been a failure throughout Melanesia.
If you want to meet Martyn in Brisbane there will be an opportunity to do so informally on Friday from 3pm at the Sherwood Services Club, Corinda, near the railway station. Call Murray Bladwell on 0413 057 673
Thank you Martyn for shedding light on the Melanasian way of our mother country.
I hope the perception they hold about us changes. It is in our blood to live in communites but its the government's failure in addressing the communites which has resulted in a dysfunctional society.
The educated elites of 21st century have the heart to make some radical changes in their communites.
Posted by: Celestine | 04 August 2012 at 11:28 AM
I am speechless about the whole affair.
I mean Martyn, down in Australia, doing what he is doing at the moment.
I can see changes happen in the future, for sure.
Posted by: Bernard Yegiora | 31 May 2012 at 03:35 PM
I also find Asia Pacific Focus a good program. Over the last few weeks they have had some good short reports of PNG. But the interviews with leading Asian thinkers are really great and it would be good to interview some "leading" persons from PNG.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 31 May 2012 at 08:26 AM
Good to hear official engagements went well, in the sense of opportunity provided for time and place to allow views to be exchanged.
Would have been great if he managed to get on an ABC program like Asia Pacific Focuas (Sunday AM) or on Q and A if they had a session on Pacific.
But thanks all the same for your efforts.
Posted by: L Timmer | 31 May 2012 at 12:35 AM
Phil - The meeting with Alan Griffin was my favourite (I think Martyn would just about agree); even though PNG is not his area of expertise he gave Martyn and I wonderful advice and insight in to how we should approach our meetings.
Unfortunately for Alan, and for Australians who are missing out on a potential good minister, he now finds himself well outside the PM's inner-sanctum and has a battle on his hands to retain his seat.
Personally, I hope Mr Griffin decides to contest his seat again and manages to hold it because, if he goes, the House of Reps will be losing a good man.
Posted by: Ben Jackson | 30 May 2012 at 08:13 PM
I've heard good things about Alan Griffin.
Maybe the Labor Party should boot Marles out and give his job to Griffin. Better still, separately set up Griffin as parliamentary secretary for PNG.
Griffin was Veterans Affairs Minister (and a good one) until stepping down at the last election so he could get his life back. I have a feeling this may be his last term - KJ
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 30 May 2012 at 09:58 AM