As our friends & comrades die, a bit of our lives vanishes
Peter O’Neill is cheating on our public servants’ wages

Parochialism & greed produced the ills that bedevil PNG

Phil Fitzpatrick


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.


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Paul Oates

I think your glum depression is is easy to understand if you were keen on the 'progressive' side of politics Phil.

The way ahead will now be depend on how Morrison handles the challenges in the coming months and years. Given the increasing instability to our north and in Antarctica, we're in for a distinctly bumpy ride.

As to becoming the 52nd state of the US - that's never going to happen while ever we can preserve our somewhat subliminal culture against foreign influences and the 'tall poppy' syndrome is alive and well.

Philip Fitzpatrick

There’s a lot of analysis going on at the moment as people try to figure out how Labor lost the unlosable election last week.

One of the most interesting analyses comes from ABC journalist Stephen Long. He cites Dr Richard Denniss, the chief economist at the progressive think tank The Australia Institute.

"If Bill Shorten was running a class war he was spectacularly successful in recruiting high-income voters with most to lose to his cause.

"Landlords backed Labor and their renters backed the Coalition.

"The landlords voted to give their tenants free child care and free health care while their tenants voted for their landlords to keep their tax concessions. Who said we are not a cooperative country?"

Stephen Long attempts to explain this riddle by referencing the ‘aspirational classes’.

This is a long standing theory which has it that poor people vote for rich people because they aspire to be like them.

The logic goes something like this: one day I will be rich and when I am I want all the privileges that rich people have so I’m not going to vote to remove any of those privileges that I might one day also have.

My old mate Vlad Potezny summed this theory up succinctly when he told me in the late 1970s that the average Australian fuckwit always votes conservative.

This is all very well I guess, people are entitled to vote for whoever they like for whatever reason.

Politicians representing the rich and elite attract these naïve aspirational voters all over the world. It all works very much like the churches who offer naïve people paradisiac life after death.

I’m absolutely sure that’s why people in Papua New Guinea vote the way they do. They all aspire to be bigmen one day.

Where this all gets sinister, particularly for Australia, is illustrated by the conservative commentator Tom Switzer, the executive director of the right wing think tank the Centre for Independent Studies.

His take on the election is to compare Scott Morrison’s victory with that of Donald Trump, who got himself elected on the back of disenfranchised blue collar workers and poorly educated whites.

There is no doubt that Morrison ran a presidential style election. All we saw during the lead-up to the vote was Morrison in his baseball cap quaffing beer and sausages with the plebes in the suburbs and back blocks.

Although it looked like a disorganised and desperate bid for re-election it was in reality a very carefully contrived strategy in the Trump mode.

If Morrison had come out with a baseball cap emblazoned with the words ‘make Australia great again’ and accused his opponents of being evil socialists we wouldn’t have been surprised.

He didn’t need to do that though because Clive Palmer more or less did it for him.

This all now begs the question, what sort of government and prime minister have we ended up with?

If it’s a version of Trump-lite I think we are in big trouble. Among other things it presages a change to a more presidential style of politics.

But then again, we are slowly turning into an outlier of the United States of America anyway.

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