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Debates

The PNG Solution

22 Jul 2013 09:21

Retired Brigadier Gary Hogan has been Australia’s Defence Attaché in both Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Indonesia.

In March 1964, the 'Year of Living Dangerously', Indonesian President Sukarno, speaking at a public rally, told the US ambassador in attendance to 'go to hell with your aid!'

Aid programs with Indonesia, even ones as massive as ours, at over half a billion dollars annually, have never been an effective means to garner support from, exercise influence over, or curry favour with its leaders. If there are Australians who presume otherwise, tell 'em they're dreaming.

COMMENTS

22 Jul 2013 15:10

Dr Khalid Koser is a Lowy Institute Non-Resident Fellow and Deputy Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Prime Minister Rudd's new asylum policy is likely to work.

First, he has filled a dangerous political void. Even Mr Abbott appears grudgingly to condone the policy. The Labor Party can still be attacked for its poor record on boats (as the party that let them back in) but this is a far less potent criticism than being a party without a coherent stand on the issue. If the Labor Party loses the next election, I don't think it will be the boats that bring it down any longer, as many have been predicting.

Second, I think the policy is likely significantly to reduce the number of boats departing for Australia. It is punitive enough to make anyone think twice: no-one arriving by boat in Australia without a visa will ever settle there. It will undermine the smuggling business in all but a few cases where smugglers are unscrupulous (and short-sighted) enough to take their payment up front and dispatch their clients without regard – and these smugglers won't be in business for long.

COMMENTS

23 Jul 2013 09:37

Martyn Namorong is a multi-award winning writer, blogger and television presenter.

In March 2008, Kevin Rudd made his first official visit to Papua New Guinea to build ties, the first such visit by an Australian prime minister in 11 years. Out of that visit was forged a special affinity and respect Papua New Guineans had for Kevin Rudd, perhaps best illustrated by the naming of a baby from the highlands after the Australian prime minister.

Papua New Guinean relationships are best defined by the cultural narrative of tribalism. By his special consideration of PNG in 2008, Rudd had made himself a member of the tribe.

COMMENTS

24 Jul 2013 10:24

Deni ToKunai is a political commentator who writes PNG's leading political blog, The Garamut.

In the public commotion and media frenzy of Kevin Rudd's announcement that a new arrangement will see Australian asylum seekers resettled in PNG, one key point has gone largely unnoticed: it was his counterpart Peter O'Neill who approached Kevin Rudd with the deal.

This is interesting for a number of reasons. It is clear that when Rudd and company briefly visited PNG on 14-15 July, the issue of asylum seekers was on the bilateral agenda, albeit not advertised as prominently or publicly as concerns such as the PNG LNG project or the state of PNG's hospitals.

COMMENTS

24 Jul 2013 13:50

From his essay in The Monthly, Faith in Politics:

The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst. That is why the government's proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the entire Australian migration zone and to rely almost exclusively on the so-called Pacific Solution should be the cause of great ethical concern to all the Christian churches.

COMMENTS

24 Jul 2013 15:40

Martyn Namorong is a multi-award winning writer, blogger and television presenter. His initial reaction to the PNG-Australia asylum seeker agreement appeared on The Interpreter yesterday.

From online postings to offline activism, a new generation of protest-hardened Papua New Guineans is making its voice known to the powers that be.

Yesterday, as the Prime Minister was recording an interview on national television regarding the asylum seeker deal, only a stone's throw away at Jack Pidik Park in the nation's capital, Port Moresby, a gathering of around 50 hard-line activists was taking place.

Protest banner against asylum seeker deal. Taken yesterday at Jack Pidik Park, Port Moresby, on the author's mobile phone.

COMMENTS

26 Jul 2013 12:11

In the current climate of electoral desperation in Australia, it is difficult to get a true picture of the reality of Australia's aid program in PNG because it's so misunderstood even when the spotlight isn't shining on it. Very few people actually understand that there is a genuine effort on the part of Australian aid officials to respond to PNG's development priorities, priorities that are agreed to by both governments. That's what the PNG-Australia Development Partnership signed in 2008 is all about. And that's what its predecessors, the Development Cooperation Treaties, were all about.

PNG governments have traditionally not liked the confines of the treaties and partnership because they attempt to hold PNG to its word about what it will achieve in meeting the development objectives for the country. It would be easier for them if Australia either (a) handed over the money or (b) simply built things. But experience in PNG shows that the medium- to long-term development objectives like better health for all and good education aren't met that way.

COMMENTS

26 Jul 2013 16:29

Danielle Romanes is a research assistant in the Myer Foundation Melanesia Program.

So are we. Over the last week The Interpreter has hosted a raft of posts on the so-called PNG Solution, with opinions from observers in all corners. Here's a selection from The Interpreter and other places.

The emerging consensus is that Kevin Rudd's change of heart on the ethics of banishing all asylum seekers to Manus Island is not so much a solution as a wriggling can of worms that promises to create far more problems than it solves. What's more, the policy involves severe reputational risk for Australia and Rudd himself.

COMMENTS

29 Jul 2013 09:11

Dr Philippa Brant is a Lowy Institute Research Associate.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has made no secret of his desire for a realignment of Australian aid. In his address to the Lowy Institute last November he called for a greater focus on infrastructure development. O'Neill is claiming the new asylum-seeker aid deal as a win in that regard.

Reading Stephen Howes' post on the DevPolicy blog on the aid implications of the 'PNG Solution', I was struck by how the new aid announcements could easily be mistaken for 'China Aid' rather than AusAID. Australia has pledged to assist with the new courthouse in Port Moresby, construction of a hospital in Lae and construction of the Ramu-Madang highway.

COMMENTS

30 Jul 2013 12:23

There must be days when the Chief of the Defence Force and Secretary of Defence pine for the creation of an Australian Coast Guard, just so they can prise the Australian Defence Force away from the toxic debate on Australia's asylum seeker policy. Labor's PNG solution will rely on the ADF to expand refugee operations on Manus Island and will tie up the Navy's only operational amphibious ship for some time. The Coalition's plan, Operation Sovereign Borders, will see one of the ADF's six already busy three-star officers lead a distinctly military-themed policy response.

COMMENTS

31 Jul 2013 14:33

On our Facebook page, Sam Oldfield responds to James Brown's piece calculating the cost of Defence's asylum seeker operations, known as Op Resolute. Sam Oldfield begins by quoting James Brown:

'You could argue that Defence assets would be conducting border protection tasking anyway'. I think this should be argued, I think this is why the ADF doesn't like to cost operations in a vacuum, this is money that would be largely spent anyway so the question that needs to be asked is: 'Would the benefits of what the Navy is NOT doing outweigh the benefits of Operation Resolute?'

COMMENTS