The mood for provincial autonomy grows in PNG
Kids on the street bear the scars of dysfunctional families

In which I ask readers to contribute to a roundtable....


NEXT Tuesday, in Sydney, the Lowy Institute is convening a roundtable for what it terms “a select group of experts and professionals, who have deep interests in the future of Papua New Guinea, to harness their knowledge and develop a fresh perspective on PNG’s future”.

Along with a bunch of Papua New Guineans and other Australians, I’ve been invited to participate in this event – entitled PNG in 2015: At a crossroads and beyond - which will “canvass innovative ideas to guide Australia’s engagement with PNG”.

The Lowy Institute will use outcomes from the discussion to “contribute to the conversation around PNG’s future and improving people-to-people relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea.”

These themes are familiar to PNG Attitude readers – having been much discussed in this forum over the last 10 years.

It was almost exactly three years ago that we had a lively online discussion that was bookended by then shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop who launched the forum with an article and, when stumps were called, made a final contribution responding to the main issues raised by readers.

More below about what Ms Bishop – now Australia’s foreign minister and a prime ministerial contender - said back then, but first I’d like readers to respond to this question: What significant step or steps should Australia take to improve people-to-people relations between Australia and PNG?

If you offer your thoughts in the Comment section at the end of this piece, I’ll ensure they are assembled for the Lowy Institute to use in its considerations about this crucial issue.

And now to what Julie Bishop had to say in 2012 in response to our readers. Some highlights….

“I consider Papua New Guinea one of Australia's top foreign policy priorities. While there have been highs and lows in the past (as with all relationships), it is how we manage these periods that matters….”

“I am certainly aware of the challenges facing service delivery and providing basic infrastructure such as roads in remote parts of the country….”

“Judging from your comments, there appears to be strong support for initiatives that improve the knowledge and understanding between Australia and PNG, particularly at the community level. I am a strong believer in promoting two-way student exchange as a way building a new generation of friendships between our two countries. Sport, whether it be rugby league, union or Aussie rules, can also play a key role.”

“Projects such as the Crocodile Prize are very useful in this regard. For the people of PNG, creating national leaders in the arts - just as in sport - that younger generations can aspire to is very important….”

“I think the idea of empowering women financially is very sound…. This idea not only ties into my determination to move the relationship between Australia and PNG to an economic partnership, but also my interest to work with women leaders in our region to establish a forum for dialogue and action on common interests including security, education, health, human rights and development….”

“I agree that reducing corruption remains a pressing issue. When I am in PNG, I will certainly make enquires about what Australia can do to support Task Force Sweep…..”

So that was foreign minister Julie Bishop back in 2012. What are the big issues in the Australia-PNG relationship now? And what should be done to progress them? You don’t have to write an essay but I’d really like to hear from you ahead of next Tuesday’s event.


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

Michael Dom

Agreed Tania. We should be a business partner.

But no one wants to go into business with a partner who lacks the capacity or the maturity to know themselves better.

Growing up means maturing - knowing what it is that we have and what we are lacking.

We should not need to worry about patronising attitudes of some Australians - and our leaders should know how to handle that attitude, if indeed they are mature leaders.

National pride, if misplaced, will retard national maturity.

We lack lots of capacity to implement our development objectives.

No amount of national pride can overcome lack of capacity to implement development projects - people who are working proudly may keep slugging along but to no avail - I think we've seen this in many, many cases.

Tanya Zeriga-Alone

Instead of a big laundry list - a list that the PNG government is supposed to be addressing - we should ask Australia for just one thing.

Quit patronising us, quit looking at us through the "cane hacker" lens. Treat us as an independent country just like New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Indonesia. Treat us like a business partner.

Set the standards high and see us stretch and grow. Stop the aid. Make the Colombo Plan a two way process (seems Australia is training the future consultants to PNG).

For us in PNG, we should stop blaming Australia for our bad decisions and start owning our decisions. Then maybe Australia will see us and treat as a grown up and not a petulant child.

Jimmy Awagl

1. Fund and facilitate PNG
a) Urbanisation program, water and sanitation
b) Education at Higher degree levels
c) Health, CT Scans in PNG Hospitals
d) PNG Literature through Crocodile Prize
e) Book Publication and Marketing in PNG

2. Agriculture- improve primary production and imports

3. More Australian enterpreneurs in PNG than Asians

4. Kina value improve and flood PNG with Australian products

5. Visa shoulder be easier for PNG to enter Australia

Thanks for the opportunity given.

Tanya Zeriga-Alone

The Colombo Plan need to be a two way program.

Currently, PNG students are given scholarship for post graduate studies.

Fair enough, but unlike previously, when students were sent home directly after their studies, this time PNG students must be offered an extra year or two for "internships or mentorships, and a flexible mobility grants program for both short and longer-term study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research."

Bomai D Witne

Government services such as roads, health, education, bridges, electricity, good water, community policing, improved agricultural activities and many more are almost non-existent in rural PNG. Development partners such as Civil society organizations and churches are struggling to contribute towards development gaps in PNG. However, it appeared that sound policy driven coordination at national, provincial and local level governments is missing. I would support an initiative that builds a coordination strategy that sets relevant government agencies, CSOs and churches on an ongoing dialogue on development issues and set in motion an accountable and transparent mechanism. Australians to assist in capacity building strategies for CSOs would be a way forward for the people and the local community.

Michael Dom

My first thoughts about 'people to people relations':

1) District administrative staff have generally very low capacity to implement development projects and even basic activities of administration - they need training and empowerment to perform their functions.

In particular, education and proper training of new staff as well as on-the-job training should be strengthened.

Partnerships/interactions between respective administrative bodies of local level government may be one means.

This should also involve the relevant participation of experienced past operators in PNG, e.g. ex-kiaps, social workers, aid volunteers and others with first-hand knowledge of particular districts.

Staff short term training/working visit to local level governments in Australia may be another.

We need to breed the administration staff of tomorrow.

2) Primary education needs continued support and one key aspect should be improved teacher education and training in Australia and through a project which provides local training and support to new and current teachers.

Teaching materials are usually in short supply.

In particular programs which supply books (new, used or from local publishers) to PNG schools to help stock classrooms and libraries needs continued support.

Apart from student exchange, school excursions to either country may be another way of enhancing understanding between young people.

3) Youth assistance - education, training and sports etcetera are all good, but what is glaringly lacking all over PNG is that kids have no where to play unless they join a formal sporting code, which is not always what kids want to do.

They need access to facilities and programs where they can go play and burn excess energy, e.g. sports grounds other than at school, indoor gaming venues controlled by local organizations/businesses, outdoor sport and skills interaction e.g. motorcross, water sports and similar activities requiring physical and technical ability.

4) Agriculture - the rural farmers need facilities, empowerment for local production and market development.

Much has been done is is still ongoing in agricultural research, development and extension. This needs to continue.

The objective needs to be whole of value chain development.

Chris Overland

I endorse the idea that our politicians need to start exploring how to include PNG into the arrangements that exist between Australia and New Zealand.

This will be a tricky process but I think that there are long term benefits to be had for all parties.

Also, I wonder if we could establish a fully Australian owned and operated "Development Bank", which specialises in micro-loans for people who ordinarily would not be eligible, especially women.

This strategy has been used in Bangladesh, apparently to very good effective.

The amount of money put at risk need not be large (relatively speaking), being done on a proof of concept basis in the first instance.

If it works, the bank can then be either sold to a private operator or to the PNG government.

Mathias Kin

And I forgot this one:

5. Manus Asylum Detention Centre must go!

Mathias Kin

My thoughts:

1. The current strict entry visa into Australia should be done away with. This has been discussed well all the time everywhere.

2. Promote agriculture as the way forward for PNG into the future.

3. If Australia is serious about the fight against corruption in PNG, Australia should expose all politicians (formers as well) and bureaucrats who have dubious businesses and money banked in safe heavens (banks) in that country.

4. Australia must be honest and fair dinkum on the West Papua cause. Will the great Australia continue to be silent on the genocide on this island. Is this the same Australia that has been in the forefront of all the UN efforts in the Middle East and been so vocal in its support for America as world police?

This West Papua issue maybe seen as another cup of water from our current discussion but the whole of nation (PNG) is into the West Papua issue. We see Australia's past and current silence on this issue as hypocritical.

Thank you

Phil Fitzpatrick

Agree with Robin.

A free flow of citizens between PNG, Australia and New Zealand will lead to all sorts of benefits.

Close Manus. With the resettlement scheme involving mostly Iranian refugees a Middle Eastern enclave living on our doorstep is not a very bright idea.

Robin Lillicrapp

Revise and liberalise the visa process for PNG residents desiring to visit Australia. Make it so that PNG-side corruption roadblocks are eliminated from the application process.

Albert Schram

We hope twinning activities, student exchange and Faculty exchange for universities can finally start. Arrangements should be made directly with PNG universities.

Brendan Duyvestyn

1) Introducing better support networks for women suffering from domestic violence.

2) The manipulation of the Kina level (exchange rate) has to be removed or export industries will never develop.

3) Support the agricultural communities. Mining puts too much to too few and makes corruption more enticing. A broader commitment to support agricultural industries is a better pathway to across-the-population wealth development.

4) Education standards lifted. Free access of PNG students into Australian secondary system. PNG travel into Australia should be much easier than it is.

5) Direct support for PNG-ased education, particularly tertiary. Professionals entering the market are simply not well educated enough or exposed enough to basic business concepts and tools. Development of trade apprenticeship scheme would be good too as the trades are just as poorly skilled.

Thanks Brendan - a good start - KJ

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