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Beware of names, there’s more to them than meets the eye


TUMBY BAY – “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

These oft-quoted lines from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are now enshrined as a given but I’m not sure I entirely agree.

If, instead of being called a ‘rose’, this flamboyant flower with its heady aroma was called a ‘pigs arse bush’ would it be quite the same?

Unlike Shakespeare, I think names can be quite important.

Take political parties for instance.

In Australia the two main parties are Liberal and Labor. There’s also a large minor party called the Nationals.

I don’t know whether anyone has noticed but there doesn’t appear to be anyone you could actually call a liberal in the Liberal Party anymore.

Same with Labor. Turn it upside down and give it a shake and not one bona fide labourer (worker) will fall out.

There’s nothing national about the Nationals either. It’s a party comprised of farmers and small town parochial businessmen.

Apart from the Nationals, most Australian political parties are now comprised of lawyers, apparatchiks and, heaven help us, celebrities.

We’ve even got a bunch of independent celebrities who incorporate their own names in their party name. One day they’ll probably all get together and call themselves the Look at Me Party.

In Papua New Guinea it’s a bit different. Instead of a couple of really big parties every little clique has its own small party.

I’m not sure how this came about. I suspect opportunism and ‘keeping up with the Jones’ might have something to do with it.

Once upon a time there were two major parties, PANGU and United. PANGU stood for Papua and Niugini Union, by the way.

The United Party started out as the Compass Party and was formed by a bunch of planters and a couple of token highlanders who could see the writing on the wall as independence approached. At first they had links to Australia’s Country Party, the forerunner to the present day Nationals. Thankfully the party metamorphosed into something more relevant with the name change.

The names of both PANGU and United reflected their major concerns at the time, the threat of Papuan separatism and the clearly held view that to succeed as a nation Papua New Guinea’s diverse peoples needed to be united.

Nowadays there are something like 45 registered political parties in Papua New Guinea.

Running through the names, it is difficult to work out what they are about or what they represent.

What on earth does Triumph Heritage Empowerment Rural Party mean for goodness sake? What does it actually stand for – any ideas?

At least the United Resources Party is clear on that point, especially when you know who founded it. I suppose if the founders were really honest they would have called it the Dig Up PNG and Sell It Party.

What does Peoples National Congress mean? It sounds like some sort of evangelical prayer meet or a shadowy arm of the Communist Party. Why not call it what it is, the Peter O’Neill Party. Why waste such a lovely acronym like POP - as in ‘pop goes the weasel’.

Many of the other parties include catchwords in their names like alliance, progress, democratic, Christian, reform, Melanesian, development, change and so on. They give the merest hint of what they’re on about but that’s it.

If any of them ever achieve any significance no doubt they’ll do what Liberal and Labor did in Australia and quickly abandon their founding principles.

High sounding and grandiose names might appear impressive, especially if they can be formed into a catchy acronym, but some people do get carried away, don’t they?

Let’s call a spade a spade. If there was any honesty in Papua New Guinean politics there would be a party called the Corrupt and Incompetent Party running at the next election.

That’s got quite a nice ring to it and I reckon people would fall over themselves to join up.


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Paul Oates

How about the GAR Party - short for 'Grabbit an' Run.

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