| Pearls & Irritations | Edited extract
CANBERRA - Our neighbours in Papua New Guinea are heading towards a pandemic crisis, and we are diverting some of our supplies to them.
Some people might wonder why we are not withholding supplies to PNG when we don’t yet have enough for our own purposes.
As an older diabetic I am more vulnerable than most people to a serious respiratory condition if the virus comes to inhabit my body.
For myself, I would happily give vaccine priority, if needed, to someone from PNG, because I have ample means of reducing my risk of infection, means that PNG citizens do not have.
But one does not have to be public spirited about it.
A raging Covid pandemic in PNG is a clear and present danger to Australia and Australians. We are doing more than being good neighbours, and to an old external territory, at that.
There is a good deal of cross-border exposure of Australians to PNG folk, particularly, but not exclusively, in the Torres Strait.
Moreover, Australia and Australians would be directly affected if PNG outbreaks got out of control, or caused significant social, political or economic dislocation.
The earlier we develop a partnership in helping PNG cope with and conquer the problem, the cheaper the outcomes for our country.
Australia is considerably protected because we are an island, with some, but only some, capacity to prevent the entry of others.
In this sense the threat of a very serious outbreak in PNG is not as great as the threat to the good people of NSW were Queensland an independent state badly managing the pandemic there.
Cooperation rather than competition — even some collective effort - best serves Australia’s national security interest as much as it serves our sense of international citizenship.
Jack Waterford is a regular contributor and former editor of The Canberra Times