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September 25, 2003

Thank god for Australia!

After reading this article (attached below) on Australian aid & interference in Papua New Guinea, I can't help but think, "thank god for the New Guineans that Australia is right next door," so they can't forget about their former colony. Similarly, though Mexico is no colony and never was (officially), the presence of the United States to the north serves as both a labor outlet and a source of possible bail-outs (at least for the monied classes) to forestall social chaos. The unfortunate problem for many of these nations is that they have enough nationalistic pride to be angry at the interference by outside poweres, but not enough to counteract clannish behavior, family nepotism and corruption. Pity poor Rwanda, Belgium was a continent and a world away, out of sight, out of mind....

Australia and Papua New Guinea

Big brother?
Sep 25th 2003 | SYDNEY
From The Economist print edition

Tied aid upsets a neighbour

Get article background

ALEXANDER DOWNER, Australia's foreign minister, has a habit of talking down to his country's neighbours. Of Papua New Guinea (PNG), a former colony, which still depends on Australian aid for one-fifth of its budget, he said recently that it was “very lucky” to have this money. Mr Downer was responding to PNG's protests over Australia's plan to tie its aid, worth A$330m ($224m) a year, to stiff conditions. Australia wants to send a force of at least 200 police to tackle crime in PNG, and a posse of civil servants to sort out corruption and inefficiencies in the country's bureaucracy. If PNG rejected the proposal, he hinted, it might have to get by with less aid.

At first Sir Michael Somare, PNG's prime minister, accused Australia of wanting to take control of its old colony again and threatened to look elsewhere for his aid. After talks on September 18th between Sir Michael and Mr Downer in Port Moresby, the capital, PNG appeared to accept Australia's plan, subject to details being worked out by December.

Mr Downer called the plan “heightened Australian engagement” in PNG; but it also raised questions about Australia's wider strategic intentions in the Pacific. Two months ago, Australia led a force of more than 2,000 soldiers to restore order to the Solomon Islands, racked by civil conflict. The problems of both Pacific island countries stem partly from their rocky transitions to Westminster-style government after independence, PNG from Australia in 1975 and the Solomons from Britain three years later. In PNG's scattered provinces, loyalties are often more tribal than to parliament in far-away Port Moresby. Corruption has flourished. Money for hospitals and schools has disappeared. Foreigners live behind barbed wire in the crime-ridden capital.

Australia's conservative coalition government, led by John Howard, argues that intervention in the affairs of so-called failed states in Australia's neighbourhood is justified to stop them turning into havens for international crime and terrorism. Although life in PNG has not broken down to the same extent as in the Solomons, Australia says it is now time to get tough before it does. And, however unlikely it may appear that terrorists would choose island states such as the Solomons or PNG to launch attacks on Australia, the argument seems to have public approval at home.

Australia has been floating the idea of a Pacific economic and political community with a common currency based on the Australian dollar. But the PNG intervention is likely to strengthen feelings among island nations about loss of sovereignty. An Australian parliamentary inquiry into relations with the Pacific reported in August a sense of disapproval in the region towards Australia's “big brother” approach. Offering a helping hand is one thing; creating a climate of goodwill is another.

Posted by razib at 08:57 PM

was Papua New Guinea an Australian colonny I thought it was British?

Posted by: tom at September 29, 2003 08:10 AM

Northern PNG was German until 1914, when Oz troops captured it (along with various other German possessions in the SW Pacific). Australia effectively ran southern PNG from 1902. The post-WWI League of Nation Mandate was specifically to Australia, not the UK.


Posted by: Errol Cavit at October 1, 2003 11:33 PM