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When a society feels threatened

Australian voters
Phil Fitzpatrick - "Trying to convince wary Australian voters to accept progressive change at this time proved disastrous for the Labor Party"


TUMBY BAY - When a society feels threatened it tends to withdraw into itself and usually does one of two things.

The first is to fall back into an innate sense of conservatism and the second is to bury its head in the sand and consign its fate to the gods.

In the past, when war has been imminent, we have seen nations withdraw into themselves and follow leaders who are by nature nationalistic and conservative.

When the war has passed and if they have proved victorious that same nation will then become much more progressive as a result of its optimism. This is essentially what happened in the 1960s in the west.

At the moment the world is facing turbulent times. The old economic paradigms are proving ineffective and climate change is posing a serious existential threat.

As the Labor Party in Australia has just learned such times are not conducive to social change.

Trying to convince wary Australian voters to accept progressive change at this time has proved disastrous for them.

At the moment the only time that Australians might contemplate a change in government would be if the incumbents proved particularly inept and/or corrupt.

If the media is any sort of guide Australians are preoccupied with their personal wealth, their cars, their houses and their stomachs. Anything that threatens those things they will react against.

If you take these analogies to Papua New Guinea the impact seems to be entirely different.

The incumbent government has proved not only to be disastrously inept but one of the most corrupt in the world.

Yet there is no reaction.

Papua New Guineans seem to have wholeheartedly adopted the second of the options noted above and buried their heads firmly in the sand in the hope of some kind of miracle which will probably never come.

To be fair they have a government that defies description in normal political terms. It is neither conservative nor progressive nor anywhere in between. It is a nothing government.

There is nothing that defines it politically. It has no policies. Instead it has spending targets. Its only features are incompetence, greed and corruption.

It is simply a wholly bad government. It is a disaster government.

If it was a government in Australia most of its members would be locked up in gaol.

Instead those members are now busily switching alliances and lining up to keep the gravy train going. For those few progressive members in the euphemistically labelled opposition this development must be soul destroying.

Unlike their Australian counterparts the voters of Papua New Guinea cannot retreat into conservatism because such a thing does not exist. The sandpit is their only option.

This lack of political choice is what characterises the difference between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

For Papua New Guineans there is no fallback position. There is neither a conservative nor a progressive party they can turn to for help.

This is probably one of the saddest political realities any nation can endure because it only leads to hopelessness.


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Paul Oates

Och Aye Wullie! I am given to understand that you Dunlops are a wee Sept of the MacIntyre Clan and entitled to wear MacIntyre Tartan kilts.

Apparently, Dunlop's 'ave bin Macintyrres fur yearrrs......

Philip Fitzpatrick

If veteran Labor stalwart Joel Fitzgibbon is to be believed one of the reasons his party lost the recent 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 Papua New Guinea certainly concentrate their attention on their own electorates but in a random and uncoordinated way.

Beyond that they have a fixture on Port Moresby and spend huge amounts of money on often white elephant projects there.

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 multi-national resource developers the scales become really 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 Papua New Guinea would be like now if they had tackled the problem of law and order right from the beginning in 1975.

If they had poured resources into the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in all of the regions and provinces many of the problems that plague the country would never have occurred.

Among others things Papua New Guinea 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 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 instead of falling for the promise of quick bucks from mineral resources and instead concentrating 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 Papua New Guinea 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 Papua New Guinea because our functional electoral system will quickly react to the recent election results and change course.

That Papua New Guinea will ever change course is a different question altogether however.

William Dunlop

Spot on Paul- I have made use of the expression on a no of occasions in conjunction with.
Gammon nau all same maus wara tasol.

The present day Politics are somewhat in the nature of my ancient Irish Scottish Ancestors.

Of whom King James Stewart VI.I was perhaps the shrewdest of all. known as the wisest fool in Christendom.

Bernard Corden

The huge SUVs are leased and the houses belong to the bank.

Paul Oates

If one could suggest the analysis of the recent Australian election may be a tad simplistic, perhaps a reflection on the PNG government process could also be at that level.

Here's one 'helicopter' view of the recent Australian election from a Deep North perspective.

Some so called, well heeled, cafe latte, societies from down south, that have absolutely no intention whatever, (shudder), of actually practicing what they preach and getting their hands dirty, getting rid of their huge four wheel drive SUV's that have not a speck of dust on them, and tossing their expensive electronic devices away, wanted to preach to those up north who needed jobs and were indeed feeling the pinch.

Queensland has always been a region with fairly parochial and one might say, historically justifiable viewpoints which is why Papua eventually ended up being recognised by the rest of the country as being slightly significant.

Along with many other PNG watchers, I have struggled to understand PNG politics from a Westminster perspective and therefore how the amorphous body of the PNG government actually operates.

It now seems obvious that the system now in place is a mere escalation of village politics. The battle at the top is a clear indication of the traditional PNG struggle of who can reach the ultimate goal of being the paramount chief and then stay there.

All else is maus wara tasol.

Clearly most of PNG therefore finds it familiar is therefore presently content to continue with that situation.

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