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?