Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
30 April 2022
'Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose' (the more things change, the more they stay the same) - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1808–1890, French novelist and editor
CAIRNS - Clearly very little has changed since Martyn Namorong’s first visit to Australia in 2015.
When Martyn penned this, Papua New Guinea’s population was around seven million. In the 10 years since, it has increased by two million - a phenomenal rate of growth.
I’ve always felt privileged to arrive at Jacksons Airport to be met at Immigration with courtesy and respect. A far cry from stony faced counterparts in Brisbane or Cairns.
I agree with Martyn that reciprocating the visa on arrival arrangement, or at least making it much easier for PNG citizens visiting or seeking work in Australia, is long overdue.
As a long-time visitor to Port Moresby, I’m always struck by the superficiality of Australian ties to PNG.
They appear to be characterised by long lines of miners queueing at Immigration ready to extract resources from the ground for which the environmental consequences are tragic and permanent.
The heavy metal pollution of the Ok Tedi and Fly River systems in Western Province, the Jaba river basin and Empress Augusta Bay in Bougainville, and the consignment of tailings to marine environments from the Lihir gold mine in New Ireland are not the actions of a true friend or partner.
What has particularly alarmed me down the years has been the inexorable decline of basic services and with this decay the opportunity for the development of human capital.
The two million new souls added since Martyn wrote ‘Australia Not a Good Friend’, have less access now to health or education services than their parents and grandparents.
It is true that successive Australian governments have allocated considerable treasure towards strengthening PNG’s capacity to deliver services.
But, as Martyn correctly points out, not in a manner that has tangibly benefitted the common man, woman or child.
From where I sit that looks very much like neglect and, it could be argued, with bloody minded stupidity thrown in for good measure.
I am not placing this situation entirely at Australia’s feet, that would be ridiculous, but it is painfully obvious that Australia has not helped in any intelligent way.
This is exemplified when you consider that the modus operandi – the methodology of development aid, the detached spirit in which the relationship is conducted - has changed very little in more than 40 years despite the results screaming failure, failure and more failure.
The crux of the matter is that Papua New Guineans know very well what the solutions should look like. But this doesn’t necessarily fit what Canberra perceives as the appropriate model.
As other commentators as well as I have pointed out many times over, it is time to listen to the people who live there (and not just the self-interested at the top).
Listen and empower those who genuinely strive to progress their country and who know how to drive sustainable solutions.
While that may be true Barbara, the question is what are they being taught?
The absence of history and geography and other cultures in the school curriculum will mean they will inevitably make the same mistakes as humans continue to do, again and again.
Just look at what is happening in Europe and how closely it resembles the late 1930's.
Our young people need to be taught about human history in order to learn from history.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 01 May 2022 at 08:14 AM
But at least we haven't seen a great "brain drain" from PNG to Australia.
There are so many more children in schools these days in PNG.
Posted by: Barbara Short | 30 April 2022 at 05:57 PM