3 Responses

  1. Samuel Roth
    Samuel Roth January 16, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Ross Garnaut is well-respected in both countries. He should be thankful that PNG has helped him build his profile and put him where he is now – one of Australia’s most influential individuals.

    However, among the many hats that he has been wearing, Climate Change and Mining are two challenging, yet hypocritical. Has the good Prof. become a sacrificial lamb for the gigantic MNC’s or has he misled himself in his career path and academic discourse mixing up his values, if he had some?

    Of course, losing a Chairman’s job won’t make him go starving in the new year since he is already rich given his prominence and wealth his many ‘top jobs’ may have given him over the many decades of his frolific life – yes check out Forbes! His real loss now is the “saga” created by the O’Neill-BHP Biliton connection – let alone the Chinese connection. O’Neill has definitely won the confidence of many citizens who want to end any form of Neo-colonialist connotations in today’s vocabulary.

    However, any sober person (PNG citizens like myself, Australians with PNG connections and the Fly River landowners), would nod with Garnaut on his critical comments about mining taxes being misused by PNG politicians and bureaucrats. Since when has aid money or mining revenues and taxes been sustainably managed and used in PNG?

    Speaking on sustainability, is Garnaut “the person” to head a mining company when he has written immensely about Climate Change issues? On the other hand, is O’Neill “the person” to shut-off technical people/advisors and in this case, for a very “small” but honest comment by Garnaut that many see no major fault with it? Is O’Neill trying to do a cover up or is he doing a poilitical witch-hunt? All we know, for sure, is that PNGSDP has not delivered to expectations and Garnaut can take the blame for that. On the other hand, we must also know that O’Neill, as a person, CANNOT decide for the thousands of Fly River people nor for PNGuineans. His job as the PM does not give him all the rights to proclaim decisions that go beyond mining and development in PNG. However, that is how funny politicians respond in PNG politics – scolding at and rebuking critics while keep dipping their fingers into what they are seemingly there for. That is what defines their ego.

    Hence, are we seeing two hypocritical figures at play here; a Garnaut whose values and qualifications imply anti-mining and promotion of environmental sustainability and an O’Neill who plans to make 2013 a year to fight corruption. Although, Garnaut’s comments have been perceived by many as honest and somewhat “insensitive” to a government that is headed by a PM who is defensive and has taken unilateral action on someone who has been immensely attached to PNG.

    It is therefore, humble for O’Neill to swallow his government’s pride, accept criticisms and bring back Prof. Garnaut to continue what he is supposed to be doing – this time Garnaut should serve PNGSDP and the people of Fly River with honesty, dedication and some values of humanity.

    Thus, the critics that PNGSDP has not done much for the people should be the issue to tackle, not characters

  2. Keith Jackson AM
    Keith Jackson AM January 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

    The Garnaut imbroglio poses something of a dilemma for the Federal government. There’s a plausible (and ethical) argument to propose that Bob Carr’s foreign policy approach to PNG should maintain a balance between building the relationship and making it clear it does not condone bad policy (although the diplomatic nuances of such a posture are complex).

    But real politik within Australia would dictate that the government steer well clear of the tangled issue of Garnaut, the Sustainable Development Program and Peter O’Neill’s sensitivities.

    In an election year, Gillard and Carr certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that might stimulate greater controversy around the Manus refugee camps than already exists (and O’Neill is already encountering resistance to the initiative from Belden Namah).

    But most of all they wouldn’t want to jeopardise the newly strengthened and energised friendship with the PNG government, with Peter O’Neill being central to this.

    Papua New Guinea’s strategic importance in the China-Pacific era has dawned on our politicians and the need for a stable, friendly PNG has become a paramount goal.

    Bob Carr learned last year than intervening, even rhetorically, in PNG government actions is a dangerous place to be.

    One can perhaps criticise the PNG government in its approach to the Ok Tedi issue, but it seems a pity that Ross Garnaut didn’t handle the matter a little more sensitively himself.

  3. Tess Newton Cain
    Tess Newton Cain January 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Thanks Stephen for this. Without giving away anything of what will appear tomorrow(!) I would add 2 further items here. One is how PNG and Fiji will position themselves both within the MSG and the region more widely. On the one hand, there are indications that PNG is moving to leverage off its economic strength to gain greater diplomatic influence and on the other there are instances of these 2 collaborating yet more closely (possible investment in bemobile from Fiji is an example).

    And the Australia-PNG relationship whilst very warm at the moment will have a number of hotspots to negotiate including (but not limited to) pressure from elsewhere in relation to decolonisation issues, especially in relation to West Papua which then adds Indonesia into the mix.

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