TUMBY BAY - If veteran Labor stalwart Joel Fitzgibbon is to be believed, one of the reasons his party lost last weekend’s federal election is because it didn’t take into account the needs of regional areas in Australia, particularly in Queensland.
Once again there are lessons for Papua New Guinea in this outcome. But on the reverse side, Papua New Guinea provides lessons for Australia too.
Politicians in PNG certainly concentrate their attention on their own electorates but in a random and uncoordinated way.
Beyond that they have an obsession with Port Moresby, spending huge amounts of money on projects there which are often white elephant.
This gets much worse when they compete with each other to become part of the ruling elite. This results in many regional areas missing out.
If you throw into this equation the ruling elite’s obsequiousness to the big multinational resource companies, the scales become heavily tipped against the rural and regional areas.
This decidedly odd situation comes to the light when you consider what might have been if the politicians had acted more logically.
Imagine what PNG would be like now if it had tackled the problem of law and order right from the beginning in 1975.
Many of the problems that now plague the country would never have occurred if the government had poured resources into the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in the regions and provinces.
Among others things PNG would now have a thriving and very lucrative tourism industry with all the benefits that brings.
If the politicians had recognised the importance of education and provided the necessary resources in an unbiased way to all those regions and provinces think about all the positive spinoffs that spending would have engendered.
The same with health services. Among other things a well-run regional health service might have been able to slow down the unmanageable population boom in the rural areas.
And, rather than falling for the promise of quick bucks from mineral resources, by placing more focus on rural agriculture, Papua New Guinea might now be poverty free and a net exporter of a wide range of agricultural products.
Developing agriculture in the regions would also have solved many of the problems associated with urban drift and youth unemployment.
With a healthy level of youth employment the disastrous effects of drug and alcohol abuse would also have been considerably lessened.
Instead of these things PNG has been characterised by parochialism and greed since independence.
That parochialism and greed has produced corruption, poverty, environmental degradation and all the other ills that bedevil the nation now.
For want of a few forward thinking elites and politicians the nation and its people have suffered hugely.
I can’t see Australia’s lack of understanding and neglect of its regional areas ever getting as bad as what has happened in PNG because our functional electoral system will quickly react and change course.
That Papua New Guinea will ever change course is a different question altogether.