CLEVELAND QLD - The widening credibility gap between Canberra and Papua New Guinea is not just about how aid is or has been previously spent.
PNG Attitude and others of us have been banging on about this problem for years and getting nowhere.
Years of writing to successive foreign ministers and their department have been firstly politely rebuffed and then dismissed with the predictable ‘snow job’ from the public service staff who write what they are told to write by those who really have no idea what it is like at the kunai roots.
Australia has been able to take and, for the most part, keep control over this pandemic.
That objective has been possible due to a number of significant factors including that, on an island continent border control can be effectively regulated.
State and Federal governments have had the power to issue and enforce movement or lack thereof, of potentially infected people.
Now, we hope, they also have the ability to inoculate enough people to greatly reduce or mostly eradicate the disease.
Added to that, Australia is fortunate to have a health system that has just, and only just, managed to cope with the results of those who have caught the disease from those who brought it back home.
The Australian situation differs from that of PNG in a number of ways.
In addition to the limited resources needed to fight the pandemic, PNG has a culture that promotes close contact between people in communities. Home quarantining is neither possible nor practical.
Food and water must be gathered from gardens and not delivered to the front door in packages by a no-contact delivery person.
Education about how a virus spreads is not well known, even in Australia. Effective hand washing and sterilising is hard enough to get Australians to do.
How will this be possible on a large scale in rural PNG?
A virus can spread by not only coughing and sneezing and the dispersal of droplets in the air.
It can be spread by close contact with those who are infected and who have touched a surface that someone else can touch and subsequently pick up the virus from that surface and then touching their eyes or mouth. Handshakes are effectively outdated.
The sheer scale of how the usual coughs and colds have disappeared in the general Australian community is proof that hand sanitation works in addition to mask wearing. However, even that a person is wearing a mask is not enough to stop the virus from spreading.
The ‘germ factories’ of pre-schools and kindergartens are alive and well as parents must work to pay off mortgages.
And those who caught the virus on board close contact cruise ships are saying they can’t wait to go on another cruise. Go figure!
PNG is going to suffer in the same way as other less fortunate countries and there is already much fake news being spread about what this disease is and how it is spread, not to mention fakery about how to cope with the symptoms.
Even the last United States’ president was not above spreading fake news so will others if they are not fully aware of the situation or try to use it for their own gain.
If nothing else, the effects of this pandemic will show just how much lack of awareness and appropriate knowledge there is in Canberra and the true situation of the people in rural areas of PNG.
If the spread and lack of control over drug resistant TB in the Western Provence can't be managed, what happens if mass migration then starts across the Torres Strait?
Salim planti marasin na ol samting bilo haus sik igo lo PNG em gutpla. Tasol marisin bilo het klia imas girap wantaim long Kenbera, laga?
[It would be useful to send shipments of medicine and medical supplies to PNG. And some medicine in Canberra to clear people’s heads, perhaps?]