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Keith’s intimate travel diary 9 – Poverty & honesty

Julia Gillard can offer PNG one big thing – visas


Julia GillardOF COURSE IT’S NOT up to PNG Attitude to set challenges for the Australian prime minister, but let’s do it anyway.

If there was one friendly outcome that could be achieved by Julia Gillard’s three-day visit to Papua New Guinea that starts tomorrow it would be this.

Free up visa arrangements for Papua New Guineans who want to visit Australia.

This single issue is one that divides reality from Australia’s rhetoric that PNG is one of its most important international partners.

Yet the visa policy is harsh and discriminatory. It catches Australia out in its relationship with PNG and is a source of real angst for Papua New Guineans.

New Zealanders have ease of entry into Australia; why not Papua New Guineans – who, because of the past colonial connection, have arguably a closer relationship with Australia.

When Australians land at Port Moresby’s Jackson’s Airport they can get a visa right there and then.

Papua New Guineans have to go through a torrid process to gain similar right of entry to Australia – and are frequently denied that privilege.

And, if Julia Gillard cannot offer PNG some better visa system, she should at least have the decency to explain what Australia’s problem is.

At present the whole issue is shrouded with a thick blanket of silent hypocrisy.

Ms Gillard arrives in Port Moresby tomorrow for her first visit to PNG and will attend a state dinner hosted by Peter O'Neill that night before meeting with the entire PNG cabinet on Friday.

She will pay inspect the liquefied natural gas project installation at Papapapa, pay the obligatory visit to Bomana War Cemetery and meet up with local women at Port Moresby’s Gerehu market amongst other activities.

Is three days in Port Moresby really three days in PNG?


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Peter Kranz

My comments were premature. PM Gillard has said the ETA scheme will not be expanded, but did say that online visa applications will be made available to PNG citizens and some of the requirements eased, which hopefully will lead to a streamlined process.

We await the details (where the devil is hiding).

Common Australian poltical trick - give a little bit and call it a lot - KJ

Robert Puyu

Just return from UK and got visa on arrival at Heathrow Airport. My second trip there.

Australia still requires an interview including other documents just for a short business visa yearly even though I have done frequent travel to Australia at least three times a year to NSW, WA and Queensland.

Australia needs to learn more in what it means to be a true 'Australia's traditional friend or closest neighbour'

Peter Kranz

Today Ms Gillard told a breakfast hosted by the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce that a new online application process will soon make it easier for Papua New Guineans to get visitor visas.

She says her Government will also streamline the process to get multiple entry visas for people on business trips.

Sounds like they've picked up on the idea of extending ETA's to PNG.

Mrs Barbara Short

Yes, thanks Peter.
Eremas, an ex-Keravat NHS student, I'm sorry to say, should have been caught and prosecuted years back.

I'm also sorry to say that he probably learnt his corrupt ways from some of our Australian businessmen or politicians.

As I have said many times before, PNG needs an Independent Commission Against Corruption as soon as possible.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks for bringing this up Peter.

If my memory serves me right, there was one Jimmy Maladina who also took shelter in Cairns under similar circumstances.

Indeed we do share a long and abiding history with Australia.

Peter Kranz

Seems it's not what you know, but who you know when it comes to getting a visa.

An alleged crime boss wanted in Papua New Guinea over the theft of $30 million has used a 457 visa issued by the Australian government to avoid arrest and prosecution.

Eremas Wartoto, accused of being one of PNG's most corrupt figures by anti-graft authorities, has been living in Cairns since mid-2011.

He obtained a 457 visa, the foreign skilled worker visa at the centre of a Gillard government crackdown, after learning PNG authorities planned to charge him in August 2011.

Since then, Mr Wartoto has claimed to be too ill to face trial in Port Moresby over serious criminal charges laid against him in absentia two years ago.

But travel records obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that Mr Wartoto has travelled to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Fiji and the Solomon Islands during the past two years and has been able to return to live in Australia each time because of his 457 visa...

Mr Wartoto is one of several allegedly corrupt PNG figures a Fairfax Media investigation has found to be using Australia as a refuge from anti-graft investigators or to invest millions of dollars in dirty money...

Fairfax Media has surveyed Queensland property records, revealing that PNG citizens, including several ministers, politicians and top bureaucrats, are among the largest investors in multimillion-dollar properties in the state's north.

Records show more than 80 properties in the Cairns area have been bought by PNG investors since 2005, including four owned by Mr Wartoto and others by suspected corrupt senior politicians.

In Brisbane and the Gold Coast, at least 80 properties have been bought by PNG investors.

Another businessmen suspected of high-level corruption has siphoned $5 million in dirty funds to Queensland without fielding questions from Australian authorities or banks.

Robin Lillicrapp

Am I wrong in thinking that in Australia we have over over past months amassed an intake total of roughly 30,000 Muslim boat people?

We now shower them with benefits and welfare ad infinitum.

Is it also right that mere handfuls, by comparison, of PNG citizens (who are largely of Judeo-Christian heritage)are routinely blocked, misled, and otherwise denied simple visitor visas, let alone the more difficult migration type permits?

Perhaps Aussie P.M. Gillard could make sense of this rather strange and unsettling dilemma.

David Kitchnoge

I think Phil is right. Australia is a racist country.

Singapore has a visa-on-arrival system for PNG citizens and no one from PNG has caused a problem while in their country.

Corrupt passport system, bluh, bluh, bluh.

Why don't you just say it as Phil said?

Kui Kialo

Interesting, though that was a very good idea I don't think this visa proposal will be workable because have you all Papua New Guineans seen Julia's actions, and how it communicates non-verbally in front of the PNG flag?

This convey a message when she puts the finger on her lips and without even a smile on her face. This is a sign of selfishness and do it for the sake of the status she has.

Think carefully my fellow Papua New Guineans.

Marcus Mapen

OK, the PNG passport is unreliable.

One solution for that would be to check their ‘Tok Pisin’ as they enter Australia.

Any black man with a fuzzy hair that can speak PNG pidgin fluently is entitled to be a true Papua New Guinean.

Onup Tokuwe

Interesting list insofar as there are significant omissions like
other (near) neighbours Indonesia and Solomons.

And add to that the big countries / populations of China and India.

David Wall

From the photo Julia seems to be thinking about it.

Maybe on her next visit to PNG, she'll need a visa as a tourist!


South Africa is not on the ETA list for the same reason PNG is not, the PNG passport is not reliable.

The PNG Immigration Department which issues passports is corrupt and has no modern system to address identity fraud and has been known to sell passports.

Why should Australia create a gap in its border security by allowing ETA to a country that it knows has no control over its passports?

The 444 visa used by NZ citizens to come into Australia is enabled by checks such as criminal history being able to be conducted real time at the border, this is due to the fact that NZ has a modern, reliable police force, with electronic records that can be accessed real time, that's not something the RPNGC can do.

PNG is not going to get visa on arrival, but it can help its self by fixing the issues through -

-Corrupt and inept process's for issuance of passports (Indonesian fugitive?)

-antiquated system for issuance of birth certificates (supporting documentation for establishing identity)

Australia is not the only country that has voiced concerns about the lack of security around PNG passports.

This comment is published despite not being accompanied by a real name because it adds a useful dimension to the discussion. Full name next time please, stlipwaffle - KJ

Peter Kranz

Sorry, but I'm getting confused.

We (Australia) have expedited visa procedures for the most prolific visa overstayers - citizens of the US, China, UK, India and Malaysia.

But we can't even give even ETA's to PNG citizens, whose overstaying history is negligible?

Is this discrimination or what?

Matt - thowt best get hat on.

Trevor Freestone

Papua New Guinea should be really worried about the way Julia's government is managing the Australian budget.

They may not be able to afford her air fare home.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Let's be frank.

If Julia Gillard and her party closed their eyes and imagined that everyone in PNG had white skin and straight hair there wouldn't be a problem.

The White Australia policy may be gone but the sentiments sure hasn't.

Perhaps Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop could try the same trick.

John Fowke

Yes, that's all very fine but what about the bottleneck at Fort Shitscared - sorry the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby?

I've heard that this is a real problem - people can wait literally days in queue for a visa submission let alone to receive one.

On the other hand, maybe there is resistance by Oz diplomats because it is often very complicated and frustrating obtaining even a business visa (no work permit required) to enter PNG from Oz.

Marcus Mapen

Appreciate you pointing this out, but I’ve already quit trying to obtain one.

I’m getting a Chinese one instead.

Gabriel Ramoi

The inverse is also true for PNG to offer dual citizenship to some 26,000 Australians of PNG descent and to harness the potential of this group to bring to PNG the much needed infusion of first world experience that PNG needs now to make the transition from a nation based on ignorance to a modern vibrant nation state.

David Kitchnoge

Well said Keith - we in PNG are not oblivious to the fact that Australia still harbours a deep sense of distrust towards us for reasons known only to them despite all its rhetoric.

But that's fine. We have no reason to be bitter about that.

Australia is just one country in the world. There are hundreds of other countries out there with whom we can engage with in mutually beneficial ways.

We've been trapped behind this funny idea that somehow there is no world without Australia. And that is just not true.

I think World War 2 and post war involvement of Australia in PNG is all that we can go back together in history with Australia. And yet we keep bringing that short history up and kid ourselves.

We’ve been here for far far longer than our engagement with Australia. There are other countries we can go back in history together with for longer periods than with Australia.

So PNG, let's dig a bit deeper, understand where we came from, what similarities we have with other countries around us and start befriending them again.

I think we've cried enough about Australia. Lustingting long ol nau.

Look at Fiji. They may have a dictator by some people’s standards. But that dictator has proven to us that Australia (and New Zealand) is actually far less important to us than we think.

Kevin O'Regan

Keith, I agree totally. Forget the other publicity stunts, just fix the visas!

A correction, Ms Gillard is not visiting Hela, she is visiting the export site at Portion 152 at Papa Papa.

Thanks for the correction, Kevin. It means that Julia's first trip to PNG lasts three days and she doesn't get out of Moresby - KJ

Francis Nii

Good one Keith. The visa issue has been around for a long time. Every time the issue is raised, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Expressions like 'Australia's traditional friend or closest neighbour' often referred to the PNG-Aussie relationship remains vague on various fronts and visa is one of them.

Articles like this arevital and it would best if it was published in other print and electronic media as well for wider readership and public support.

The Aussie PM should do something about it.


Correction - My statement that Malaysians top the list of visa ovrestayers is five years old.

Latest figures are -

A breakdown of the numbers by country reveals authorities are seeking 7930 Chinese, 5090 Americans, 4640 Malaysians and 3650 British. Thousands of others including 3500 Indians, 2760 Koreans, 2620 Indonesians, 2410 Filipinos, 1860 Thais, 1690 Vietnamese, 1460 Germans, 1280 Japanese, 1260 French, 1240 Irish and 1090 Fijians are also at large, plus 10 from Vatican City.

Maureen Wari

Yep, the visa policy is harsh and discriminatory, not my words, even for a three hour transit.

Is PNG considered 'red' in your books for such a routine that can be simplified?

I think some steps are unnecessary. I may be wrong but some explanation is needed here for my little head to grasp.

Peter Kranz

Malaysia has the highest rate of visa overstayers in Australia. PNG doesn't even make the list.

Peter Kranz

Keith - It's more discriminatory than just a comparison with New Zealand. People from certain countries can apply for an electronic travel authority (ETA) which is a lot easier and more convenient than a standard tourist visa.

What can't PNG citizens at least have the convenience of an ETA extended to them? No proof of funds, bank account details, letters of reference, character checks or proving your grandmothers maiden name nonsense needed.

Which countries can use ETAs?

Hong Kong (SAR)
Republic of San Marino
South Korea
The Netherlands
United Kingdom—British Citizen
United Kingdom—British National (Overseas)
United States
Vatican City

But not Papua New Guinea. It seems Australia trusts Greece, Taiwan and Malaysia more than PNG.

The Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) lets you enter Australia as many times as you want for up to 12 months if you are:

a tourist
travelling for business purposes.

You can stay in Australia for up to three months on each visit.

The ETA is an electronically stored authority for travel to Australia. You must be outside Australia when you apply and when the ETA is granted.

An ETA is linked electronically to your passport. It can be seen by staff at airlines, travel agencies and Australian border agencies.

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