PORT MORESBY - If Julie Bishop was from Papua New Guinea I reckon she would have started her opening address with, “Stay where you are, you have a lot going for you but you don’t seem to know it.”
But fortunately and unfortunately she did not.
Fortunately because the grand occasion of the investment conference at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney was probably geared to hear her telling PNG the truth. (Although a version of her comments which seems to be untrue went viral in PNG.)
Unfortunately because PNG needs more leaders of high standing like her to stop the façade of big dreams premised on Australia as a fall back plan.
Well now you know if you didn’t; Australia is not a fall back plan.
She was being cruel yet kind, she was benevolent yet harsh, she was critical, yet assertive.
And she told PNG the way it should be told; not hidden by political correctness or diplomacy but bluntly.
This is probably because Australians know, despite brave efforts to warn PNG subtly of ways to stop it ransoming its future, this has not worked and it will not work.
Bishop was speaking as someone who was concerned that PNG was diving further into the abyss of debt and who has had enough of the charade of presenting PNG as a fast money scheme under the guise of offering potential lucrative deals in the extractive sector.
She drove the nail in, hitting it harder with every word that came out of her mouth.
I imagined our leaders still smiling at her but cringing inside.
The message was plain and clear. Enough of playing the silent geopolitical games and be a man.
The writing was already on the wall and her call was the right call.
Good thing they invited her to speak. It’s one of those things in life where nature takes its course and, by fate, she was there to say what needed to be said.
It is usual during such conferences to invite people who will talk in a way to support the aim of the conference.
So it must have come as a shock to our leaders when she spoke the way she did and unleashed her vehemence.
This was an innate kind of fury meant to drive home a point.
It was like a mother pointing her son in the right direction.
“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime” seemed so applicable with what Bishop was trying to do.
Nonetheless, there is no need to jump up and down berating our leaders.
It is a learning experience for them.
One person cannot know everything.
We learn from experience, we learn from each other and we learn from being chastised by our own actions. We learn from life.
In other words, stay where you are and fix yourself first. You have a whole lot going for you.
God Bless Papua New Guinea.