ADELAIDE - I think Michael Kabuni's analysis is basically correct. Australia's policy in relation to Papua New Guinea has indeed been deficient and reactive in some respects.
While I agree that the proposed Daru fisheries deal should bring economic benefits to PNG and the Western Province, I wonder how significant the benefits will be in the long term.
China's approach to fishing appears to be based upon large scale exploitation of fish stocks with little regard to sustainability although, in fairness, it is not the only offender in this regard.
With respect to security issues, there is no doubt that the Chinese government will exploit the intelligence gathering opportunities offered by having a fleet of fishing trawlers located so close to the Australian mainland. It would make no sense for them to do otherwise.
The ‘Five Eyes’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and USA) all use various means to gather intelligence about China's military and other activities so there is no reason to think China will not act the same way.
It is all part of the modern version of the 19th century ‘Great Game’, which was a competition for power and influence between the major world powers.
In this 21st century the game that is now played out in the Pacific and elsewhere.
I think that if there is a flaw in Michael Kabuni's thinking it may lie in not paying sufficient attention to the broader strategic context within which the fishing deal is being offered.
A lesson of history is that deals offered under the aegis of major powers never come without strings attached.
Those strings may be explicit or implicit, but they are always there.
Papua New Guinea is at risk of only ever finding out about those strings after the deal is done and it is effectively locked into an arrangement that may work in ways that it did not intend or envisage.