Election interference by government will weaken democracy
From the desk of the editor of ‘My Walk to Equality’....

Beautiful Manus – idyllic to ruinous in less than four years

Manus as seen from the tip of Los NegrosPHIL FITZPATRICK

VERY many years ago I came under the spell of James A Michener, Louis Becke, Frederick O’Brien, James Norman Hall, Robert Dean Frisbie, Beatrice Grimshaw and other wonderful sojourners in the South Pacific.

And I have been fortunate enough to indulge my passion for the delightful backwaters of those myriad islands scattered diagonally across the unending ocean east of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

I am, in short, a sucker for swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches, warm tropical breezes and languid lifestyles.

I have two favourite places in the South Pacific. The first is the Cook Islands, which are sprinkled north of the Tropic of Capricorn and the main island of Rarotonga.

There are magical places among those isolated atolls untouched by the modern world and, unlike their near neighbour, Tahiti, unpolluted by crass tourism and commercialism.

The second is the Western and Admiralty Islands, lying just south of the Equator and north of New Guinea, making up the Papua New Guinean province of Manus.

Whereas the Cook Islands are wholly Polynesian, the Western Islands are Polynesian and the Admiralty Islands are Melanesian.

However, unlike the Cook Islands, the Admiralty and Western Islands are far from unspoilt.

I was sitting on Manus on a shady patch of grass hard up against a tiny, sheltered beach drinking a cool beer served up from a small, thatched bar by an 11 year old girl, her nine year old brother and his black and white spotted dog, when a huge sailfish launched itself out of the water and flew past at what appeared to be touching distance.

I can’t think of anywhere else where that might happen.

And then along came Australia, in collusion with a greedy Papua New Guinean prime minister, and set about destroying the place.

They flew in hundreds of desperate asylum seekers and great numbers of thuggish jailers, police and clueless bureaucrats and changed that beautiful island forever.

Manus has gone from beautiful Pacific island to gulag status in less than four years. Its delightful, easy-going people have been irrevocably changed and may never recover.

Their traditional values, social cohesion and innate friendliness and openness have been effectively trashed.

My little bartender lost his spotted dog in the first year. It was hit by a speeding carload of drunken policemen and tossed nonchalantly onto the grass verge beside the thatched bar for the boy to find in the morning on his way to school.

That incident pretty much sums up Australia’s attitude to Manus. It is considered expendable and far enough away to avoid close scrutiny.

Atolls of the Sun coverIt was the same attitude the Americans had when they removed the people from Bikini Atoll so they could test their atom bombs there.

I do not comprehend how those politicians who planned the destruction of Manus, and now perpetuate the atrocity, sleep at night.

What James A Michener, Frederick O’Brien and all those other suntanned lingerers on tropic shores would say if they were still alive is probably unprintable.


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Bernard Corden

Corporations or companies are an anthropomorphic fallacy and to paraphrase Baron Thurlow......they have no memory, no soul to save or body to incarcerate.

Bernard Corden

Dear Arthur,

Your comments reflect the sentiments of that Tredegar firebrand, Nye Bevan. He would be proud of you.

"No amount of cajolery can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party....They are lower than vermin"

Arthur Williams

Abdi, living in Saudi’s devastated Yemen, can cower in the basement of his smashed home; can rail against the bombers and their western allies to his mates for hours on end or days on end. But it is like spreading butter with a hot knife. Nothing happens.

Isidro Baldenegro, anti-logging activist in Mexico, railed and even got awarded a gong for his efforts only to be murdered this week. If only he had been at Davos instead!

I and 12 others railed against loggers for 10 years on Lavongai. We were derided by the regional forest officer in Rabaul who today is up to his neck in ‘it ‘ with corrupt elites.

In those days - when sent pictures of undersized logs; cheap badly constructed degraded roads with ruts 6 ft deep from tropical rainfall; coral reef degradation; beautiful rainforest expensive trees left to rot because of being poorly felled into ravines etc - he replied; “You’re nit picking”.

The bastard! He even supported an elite mate from Lavongai who told a logging ship’s captain to disregard the traditional gorgor placed to prevent use of the logger’s harbour. But bet they still thrill to tell their Malaysian mates about New Ireland’s wonderful traditions and customs.

As for the miners, one phrase summed it up for me at the 1997 Mining Conference in Madang: “Sustainable mining!” Wish I had a similar ‘sustainable bank account’ that I could keep depleting with no effect on its balance.

But worse though was that these wealthy executives clad in expensive tropical gear believed their own mantra.

Of course I and other writers will not dispose of anything metal because we do not like the often degrading activities of mining companies.

What we seek is minimum environmental damage to extract the ores; maximum possible equity participation in the project by the landowners and proper remedial environmental work at mine closure. Not just bloody great holes filled with polluted waters.

I grew up near our coal mined valleys where each exhausted mine saw huge ironmongery left rusting on the surface while each community lived at the base of hills or mountains each with a pyramid slag heap of hundreds of thousands tonnes of waste.

Only the murder of 144 Aberfan persons - 116 who were schoolchildren would trigger an industrial change so that most of those dangerous tips have disappeared or if not reshaped and grassed over.

As for Diego Garcia. What a disgusting act by any government. The UK colluded with the USA to ensure the latter could use the island for at least 70 years as a military base.

The inhabitants were harassed and coerced to leave in the 1960s and after three court cases even the UK’s highest court of appeal the House of Lords approved the never to return of these unhappy people.

The islanders appeal was due to go to the EU Human Rights Court but the UK circumvented that prospect by being so environmentally friendly that it made the area a massive Marine Protected Area – though Diego and its 3 mile marine zone is exempt from any environmental regulations apparently even nuclear weapons can be stored there. And they have the gall to talk about Crimea.

So perhaps Manus still has a long way to go as far as geo-politics is concerned.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I hardly think that some poor kid starving in some hell hole is able to bring attention to his plight.

It is the middle class more often than not that will do this for him.

We may be sitting in our comfortable little patch somewhere but we can still recognise injustice and bring it to people's attention.

Otherwise, who else is going to do it?

Bernard Corden

Here are several links covering good governance and corporate social responsibility of the what was the fourth largest coal mining company in the US:





Philip Fitzpatrick

I was on official business on each occasion Richard. I've got the receipts to prove it (somewhere).

Chris Overland

I know nothing at all about how Manus may have changed due to the operation of the Detention Centre.

However, I totally disagree with Andy's idea that a person is disqualified from pointing to apparent socio-economic problems and inequalities simply because they happen to enjoy a comfortable existence themselves.

In fact, some of the most important and influential figures in human history were just such people. For example, Karl Marx was a fairly significant figure but he was not a member of the proletariat that he idealised in Das Kapital.

Similarly, Charles Dickens was a very important social critic, who used literature as a means of highlighting the manifold socio-economic problems and injustices of Victorian era Britain.

In fact, the middle class have been inordinately important in terms of stimulating important social changes such as the abolition of slavery, major reforms of the political system such as the introduction of full adult suffrage, the creation of comprehensive health care systems like the NHS and Medicare and so forth.

You do not have to be a slave, or impoverished due to unemployment or denied your democratic rights to recognise that such things are social evils.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of rank hypocrisy, opportunism and fanciful thinking on the part of some "socially aware" critics (especially on the left), but I don't think that is a charge that can be successfully made against Phil or Keith.

So, by all means disagree with Phil or Keith or me or whoever, but don't try to say or infer that our comments are invalid simply because we have the good fortune to live relatively safe and comfortable lives.

Andy McNabb

Richard, Phil has always been a dreamer. Everything is bagarup, except where he is living now thanks to the comforts the modern age has brought to him.

He should be living in a kunai haus where he could procrastinate on everything. He seems so ungrateful. No doubt he has done some beneficial things in his life, and he is to be applauded for that.

And KJ is not all that different.

There are so many people in this boat. Remember Nancy Sullivan? She railed heavily against mining in PNG.

When I asked her to put her refrigerator, oven, and any other metal objects in her house (including the copper wires in her house) out on the street for collection, as a show of rejection of mining, I did not hear another word from her.

For all those against mining, please post here that you have placed all metal objects out on the street for collection, and that you have reverted to a blanket under streetlight (but wait, there is metal in street lights, so perhaps a kerosene lamp (bugger it, still metal), post your names here. I guarantee you will not get a name.

Ahh, middle class Australia - so full of bullshit.

I suspect I will be placed in moderation for a period to re-consider my audacious comments.

On the contrary, Andy. I have hurried to update my CV with your gracious encomium and also undertaken an internet search (so far fruitless) to check out your recent achievements - KJ

Richard Jones

Hang on a moment, Phil.

Is this the same Phil Fitzpatrick who stated a few stories back that he wasn't one to accrue much folding cabbage (either in the wallet or in one of the Big Four banks)?

And preferred living just out of range and slightly above the street sleepers? A comfortable lifestyle but certainly not an extravagant one.

Lo and behold --- here's a Phil F. enjoying a cosy laid back Cook Islands sojourn and then relaxing under a Manus beach palm tree downing a cold frothy.

I'm assuming the Manus interlude came after the foot-slogging kiap years had been left behind.

Now a trip to the Cook Islands is perhaps not on the same level as our esteemed leader KJ who just recently tweeted that he'd rounded Cape Horn and was proceeding up the coast of Chile on what we imagine was an ultra swish cruise liner.

Still lolling back on a green, grassy Manus sward with a cold ale in hand doesn't sound too bad in comparison.

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil, I can recall the comments of the former American Secretary of State, Al Haig, over Diego Garcia...." Just give me the word and I will turn that tiny fucking little island into a parking lot ".

Francis Nii

I lived, worked, swam, fished, hunted, sang and danced in that province.

From what I heard from the Manusians - apart from reading stories in the social and print media about what Australia and Peter O'Neill had done to that once beautiful and tranquil paradise into a den of prostitution, drug lords, police and security guards brutality etc etc - my heart aches.

No amount of money would restore the entire milieus that have been destroyed. Sorry true!

William Dunlop

What about Fred Archer. If he was still around to comment.
His witticism to James A Michener on Burns Philip is just classic Fred.

BP's = Bloody Pirates. Terse and to the point.

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