Grotesque comedy as PNG elects a debt-ridden kleptocracy
Once Upon a Time (Mama)

A spineless Australia is no good for anyone


PAPUA New Guinea may have once been regarded as a ‘colony’ of Australia but a lot of people seem to forget that Australia itself was once a colony - in the true sense of the word.

Like Papua New Guinea, and unlike many other colonies, Australia made the transition to independence peacefully.

It seems that without some sort of struggle for independence many ex-colonies come of age retaining a strong sense of cultural and national inferiority.

Despite the brashness and faux macho of its citizens I think this is the case with Australia.

It seems to still be a country in awe of its more powerful neighbours and allies like Britain and the USA and as a result adopts a very timid stance in terms of its international relations.

This might explain why we failed to object to the Indonesian invasion of West Papua, why we only went into East Timor when the USA threatened us and why we meekly send soldiers to the Middle East even though there is no strategic relevance to us at all.

If this is true we might now want to add our failure to utter any word of protest about the hijacking and subversion of the democratic electoral process in our nearest neighbour and reputed friend, Papua New Guinea.

There is an increasing shame among many Australians about these sorts of failures and the apparently spineless attitude of our government.

For some this is an added burden to the shame they already feel about our nation’s treatment of refugees.

In terms of the Papua New Guinean election I have absolutely no doubt that a strongly worded statement by our prime minister, or even our foreign minister, would have had a positive impact on the way the elections were conducted and even the way people voted.

Some Papua New Guineans would have been indignant about such interference, especially if they had a vested interest in the status quo, but the majority would have taken heed and perhaps re-thought what was happening.

At the very least it would have been an indication that Australian cared about what was going on.

And for those who argue that Australia doesn’t actually care I would point out that such a view is extraordinarily naïve. Even if it doesn’t exercise the minds of our politicians and citizens, Papua New Guinea constantly occupies the minds of our intelligence and security communities.

The lack of such a statement no doubt also emboldened the corrupt politicians and officials in Papua New Guinea to increase their blatant abuse of the electoral process. How else can you explain the simplistic and childish antics we witnessed?

And just as what happens in Australia creates ripples throughout the whole region, what happens in Papua New Guinea does too.

Those corrupt politicians in Vanuatu and the Solomons, for instance, have probably been watching what has been going on in Papua New Guinea with great interest.

They are, no doubt, thinking that if such obvious democratic malfeasance can occur in Papua New Guinea without Australia or anyone else saying a word they’ve got a pretty good chance of pulling off the same kind of stunt in their own countries.

Australia’s silence about the Papua New Guinean elections has therefore contributed to the de-stabilisation of the region.

As Chris Overland and others have pointed out, there is a great upheaval in the old world order in full train almost everywhere at the moment. Some of our own politicians have already begun to channel this sense of unrest.

If we don’t want more of it to spread to our own region we need upright and morally strong leadership.

At the moment that is sadly lacking.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

If it would have been water off a duck's back then it is even more surprising that Australia didn't offer any criticism.

Knowing it was going to be ignored anyway should have made such criticism even more pointed.

The real fear was that O'Neill would respond by telling Australia to get their refugees off Manus.

Trevor Shelley

I have been around for a vast majority of the elections held in PNG since self govt. I have known so many politicians and watched them operate. Believe me that no matter what Australia had have uttered would have made any difference to the election process and all the rot that accompanied it. It would have been water off a ducks back.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Australia is no longer silent about the election - it has now come out condoning all the malfeasance, violence and corruption.

This is not a studied and measured response taking into account Australia's position in the region.

It is a raw and blatant approval of malfeasance, violence and corruption as a political weapon on a par with its inhumane refugee policy.

I'm waiting for Julie Bishop to cuddle up to Robert Mugabe - she's probably out shopping for a suitable outfit as we speak.

Bernard Corden

Take a look at any Queensland government regulatory authority website and join the dots. It's like and resembles a Hansard transcript from the Fitzgerald inquiry.
All the usual suspects appear and you don't have to do too much detective work.

John K Kamasua

Australia has been silent on its duty of care and strategic standing in the region to especially PNG's latest drama with the elections.

If many right thinking Australians were here, and I am sure many were part of the International Observers Team, I do not think they would form a positive

There is very little confidence in the electoral processes, powerful guns have been used to mow down supporters of rival candidates, businesses have been affected, and fear and confusion have reigned during and after the elections.

We had some declarations of seats done in hotels, while one for the Gumine Open in Simbu was hijacked when the supposedly duly elected candidate was already declared in Kundiawa by the Returning Officer.

The two candidates both attended the first seating of Parliament to vote the Speaker and the PM. One who supposedly hijacked the declaration was with the Alotau camp and voted both the Speaker and PM!

A lot of mess to be sorted out by the courts.

These developments do not augur well for democracy and nation building in the long run for PNG. And if Australia should pay a casual glance to what has transpired in PNG as far as the elections are concerned, we are in for turbulent times ahead!

Maybe Australia should stop preaching that PNG is important to Australia as far as geopolitical and strategic interests are concerned because we are going to the dogs!

It is fair for Australia to voice its concerns for the sake of good governance, democracy and peace and prosperity.

Bernard Corden

Dear Keith,
Adlai Stevenson was campaigning during the US presidential elections and an elderly lady took to the stage and over the PA system announced......." Mr Stevenson, that speech you gave was truly remarkable and every decent fellow American must vote for you"
Adlai Stevenson promptly grabbed the microphone and replied..." Unfortunately lady, I need a majority.
Another interesting quote he made, which you will no doubt appreciate as an editor of this blog......" An editor sorts the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff"
There is a dearth of talent in the political arena these days

Peter Kranz

The apathy of the average Australian towards PNG can be partly explained by the almost total neglect of coverage of the election and PNG issues by the mainstream media.

Apart from some small pieces on ABC (credit due to Eric) and SBS, RNZI had much better coverage.

Radio Australia has even closed their short wave transmissions which reached thousands of people in PNG. For shame!

Bernard Corden

The function of leadership is to create more leaders, not followers - Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader along with Adlai Stevenson were the two best presidents the US never had.

Maybe, but Ralph's intervention gave the world GW Bush instead of Al Gore. That ended well - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

'Wanpela' tweets "vote for best election coverage goes to Moni Pes followed by PNG Attitude".

Common in PNG, all too prevalent, is opportunism rampant where disruption diverts attention of an otherwise controlling agency. Looting for personal individual gain there is unleashed. Avert, glance or even blink, and needless attack and atrophy ensues, leaderless other than swarm of societal stimulus. Leading, but not heeding constitutional imperatives (is the constitution writ too leniently?), election antics hint honey in the plot.

Leaderslip so evident in terms of the intent of Leadership Code of PNG, is an ill not only of those once distant tropical isles where Australian pollies play at familiarly, but as hinted this sentence, mars Australia if not mercurially.

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