Pacific agricultural visa controversy reignites as Australia dithers
Multi-million kina Maserati fleet for APEC raises questions

Citizens react in anger as govt tries to explain Maserati purchase

2018 Maserati Quattroporte
2018 Maserati Quattroporte S GranLusso Sedan

HELEN DAVIDSON | The Guardian | Extracts

SYDNEY - Papua New Guineans have reacted with anger at its government importing a fleet of Maseratis to drive international delegates around the APEC conference next month, amid a health and poverty crisis, struggling economy, and ongoing efforts after a devastating earthquake.

The PNG government has defended its decision, expressing confidence that all 40 luxury cars will be bought by the “private sector” after the two-day event, leaving the government with no financial burden.

The cars, which cost between $200,000 and $350,000 each in Australia, were flown in from Milan on two Boeing 747-8F charter planes this week, with the costs covered by “the private sector”, according to the minister for APEC, Justin Tkatchenko.

“Maserati Quattroporte sedans have been secured and delivered, and are being committed to be paid for by the private sector,” he said.

“Having vehicles paid for by the private sector is the smartest way to have use of the vehicles for APEC at no overall cost to the state.”

Tkatchenko dismissed the backlash, saying the government had only paid a deposit – believed to be around K40m – for the cars, which would be reimbursed by private citizens who had expressed interest in buying them after APEC.

“Of course we have paid a deposit to get everything here but all costs will be totally reimbursed and there will be no burden at all to the government at the end of the day,” he told News Corp. “They are selling like hotcakes.”

Powes Parkop, governor of the national capital district, said the expensive cars were a way of showing PNG’s “deepest appreciation” for visiting leaders.

The 40 cars are the only Maseratis to ever be brought to PNG. The cars were delivered in the same week that landowners protested outside a government department, calling for outstanding compensation claims to be paid before the conference begins.

PNG has some of the world’s highest rates of violence against women, maternal deaths, malnourishment, and stunting among children under five. For some months it has been gripped by a medication crisis across large parts of the country, as well as a polio outbreak that has already claimed at least one life.

Australia this year announced an extra $16m in aid to address the polio outbreak and assist PNG’s vaccination program. Recently there have also been pay cuts across multiple sectors, including to teachers, and unexplained resealing of Port Moresby roads while rural areas are often inaccessible.

This week the Post Courier also reported on a record rise in carjackings.

“40 Maseratis for APEC and yet they cannot fix bridges that provide access to vital services in rural areas,” said Madan resident Cornelius Kalupio on social media.

Keith Jackson, a long-term commentator on PNG, told Guardian Australia the purchase was a “total perversion” of Melanesian hospitality by “ego-struck politicians” wanting to make a statement as a sophisticated country.

Jackson noted the government would be attempting to get its money back by selling used Maseratis to a town dominated by four-wheel-drives.

Jackson said the cars might get 40km out of Port Moresby on a coastal road, or out to Sogeri near the Kokoda track.

He said seeing these cars on the road would only serve as reminder to people that they can’t get water or electricity.

“It’s a real metaphor for what’s happening in Papua New Guinea at the moment.”

“This would have to be the most striking case of the government’s disdain for their people,” said PNG commentator Susan Merrell.

“K40 million would have been better spent on building new classrooms or hospitals,” said the member for Madang, Bryan Kramer.

“It was instead wasted, just so O’Neill could impress Apec delegates all at our expense … all while the majority of Papua New Guineans live in poverty and teachers and public servants face pay cuts.”


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Michael Dom

The garden boy is running amok in the pantry.

Paul Oates

I too had the same thought Harry. Perhaps it really shows the orientation of the bloke who made the decision?

Harry Topham

Something fishy here I think. Tender processes? Kick backs perhaps? Be nice to know who was behind this debacle, the gardener?

Besides their Chinese mates now make very nice luxury limos, which would have been at a fraction of the cost involved.

But then again if one wants to rob a bank, a Maserati would be ideal. Certainly leave the pursuing coppers in their wake.

Paul Oates

The kids are loose in the candy store.

Robert L Parer CMG MBE

Any idea what the two Boeing 747-8 charters would cost per vehicle? Cannot see any private person being prepared to pay this extra cost.

William Dunlop

Ross - And pray may I add my 2 bob's worth, What was the US$ cost of the two charters. Say US$2 million. Sure would buy a lot of milk shakes.

And in the real world, not forgetting the quantity of failed essential medical equipment in PNG hospitals this money could replace.

Bob Lawrence

History is repeating itself. Transport Minister Iambakey Okuk in early 1975 ordered 20 Mercedes Benz cars as Ministerial cars. Somare hit the roof, but the PNG Government could not reverse the contract, so the cars were sold off on arrival.

Ross Wilkinson

How stupid am I! The Minister has just conclusively proved why I failed third form maths all those years ago.

I made a base assumption that 20 of the vehicles were at $AU200,000 and 20 at $AU350,000 and that they would be all disposed at these rates.

This is a total recovery of $AU11,000,000 or, at today's exchange rate of 0.431650, K25,483,609.

My maths says that this is a project shortfall of approx K14,500,000 but, the Minister has assured us that the exercise will be cost neutral.

As an eminent Australian MP once asked, "Please explain?"

And that's not counting on-costs, Ross, including the considerable expense of chartering two 747s - KJ

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