A billion reasons: The future of the Sustainable Development Fund
O’Neill misled Abel in desperate attempt to cling to power

Government of the Good; or same old crooks with a new face

Puka Temu
Sir Puka Temu (left) at the media conference where he Mirisim and Tomuries quit - "We have made the bold decision to leave because of our principles"


NOOSA – Yesterday morning Papua New Guinea’s opposition (which had rebadged itself  as the ‘Alternative Government’) left ‘camp’ at Port Moresby’s Sanctuary Hotel and arrived at the Laguna Hotel to be greeted by former finance minister James Marape and his supporters.

It was a climactic moment, as the combined group numbered a claimed 57 parliamentarians, exceeding the critical number of 56 required to command a majority in PNG’s Haus Tambaran.

This is likely to be tested in a vote of no confidence originally set down for Wednesday 15 May but which may be brought on earlier, as parliament is scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

And as for who will be the Alternative Government's contender for prime minister, well, according to camp follower former Manus MP Ron Knight (@pontuna2run) writing on Twitter, that will be determined by secret ballot, and "the door is still open".

It became clear yesterday that prime minister Peter O’Neill was in serious trouble holding on to his job. The key moment was when health minister Sir Puka Temu told a press conference that he, defence minister Solan Mirisim and forests minister Douglas Tomuries had decided to quit O’Neill’s People’s National Congress (PNC).

Mirisim said Temu had asked O’Neill to resign because he had “lost the confidence” of cabinet. O'Neill's negative response to this statement, said Mirisim, led to further defections and resignations from PNC. Temu told the media conference that there were disagreements in cabinet about how PNG was being managed.

“I have made the decision [to resign] as a senior leader and I am very proud that seven other young leaders have also made the decision,” he said. “We know that PNC still has the numbers, but we have made the bold decision to leave because of our principles.”

Gabriel (@GomisRanger) riposted on Twitter, “Did someone hit him in the face to make him realise his principles? Did he even have principles?” This was a reference to Temu’s health portfolio being identified as a hotbed of corruption and inefficiency in PNG. Gabriel's comment was reinforced by social media that Temu's move was opportunistic rather than principled.

As this situation was unfolding, Canberra-based political reporter for The Australian newspaper, Ben Packham, reported that Australian officials were closely watching developments in Port Moresby where public movement had been restricted and an extra 1,000 police deployed ahead of the resumption of parliament.

“The instability has placed a $16 billion gas deal at risk and could force a reframing of one of Australia’s most important bilateral relationships, Packham wrote.

Meanwhile, O’Neill’s backers were saying the opposition probably had only 40 votes, not a majority, and that the prime minister will fight hard to hold onto his job.  Which I'm sure is true. Despite O'Neill being significantly weakened, he will use his considerable political skills and astute use of the courts to try to weave his way through a strengthened and motivated opposition.

Last night both camps (and the media) had given up waiting for a statement from deputy prime minister Charles Abel, who had been expected to call on O’Neill to resign but had not done so.

However, O'Neill's official website was delivering a puzzling error message. Hawk-eyed J Smith (@equanimity500) wrote on Twitter: “When I go to the PNG prime minister's website, I get a message saying, ‘Failed to exec’. See http://www.pm.gov.pg."

As more government politicians flocked to his 'camp', opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch told journalists that all agreements signed by the O’Neill-Abel government will be reviewed if it loses office.

“We will put PNG’s interest first,” Pruaitch said. “For any major agreements concluded recently, we want to assure our country that they will be reviewed. In so far as benefits are concerned, I think it’s time the government took a bold stand.”

But Port Moresby based academic, Dr David Ayres (@davidayres71) offered a reality check on what any new government may bring, tweeting, “Unfortunately it will be same snouts, just a different trough. It’s hardly a recipe for positive transformation.

Back in Canberra, head of the Strategic Policy Institute Peter Jennings told Ben Packham that O’Neill was a “mixed blessing” for Australia. “He has certainly been a tough PM to deal with at times, and there has been a sense of worry that he has allowed himself to get too close to China which clearly is a concern to us,” Jennings said.

“But dealing with PNG is always going to be complicated for Australia - there is historical baggage there, and they are a country that will make decisions according to their interests, which don’t necessarily align with ours.”

Lowy Institute research fellow Shane McLeod told Packham that Australia had invested heavily in its relationship with O’Neill. There would be uncertainty over what comes next, but Australian officials are "familiar with a lot of the players in this situation,” he said.

McLeod said momentum appeared to be with the opposition “but O’Neill won’t be giving up... [He] is in the fight for his political future right now,” he said.

On Twitter, Ali Kasokason (@ConfigGuyPom) quipped, “Next ground breaking ceremony by O’Neill and crew will be at Bomana!” Which is the notorious prison just outside Port Moresby.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

A "government of the good" might like to consider what is happening in New Zealand.

The Government in New Zealand is so committed to putting wellbeing and the environment at the heart of its policies, that it will now report against a wider set of wellbeing indicators in future Budgets.

The Wellbeing Budget aims to broaden the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy by using the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework to inform the Government’s investment priorities and funding decisions.

From now on, its Government will “…measure and report against a broader set of indicators to show a more rounded measure of success, as a country and as a Government.”

The New Zealand Government believes this will be supported by Budget processes that facilitate evidence-based decisions and deliver the Government’s objectives in a cost-effective way.

New Zealand believes that its Wellbeing Budget represents an important step towards embedding wellbeing in public policy.

The Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) is planning on adopting the same concept.

Bhutan, in the Himalayas, has been measuring its Gross Domestic Happiness since the 1970 so this is not a New Zealand first.

Money and the economy is not the be-all and end-all of running a government like so many believe.

William Dunlop

Now the toing and froing amidst much gnashing of teeth for the new richer than all his tribe leader of PNG.

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