If PNG Needs Australia, Australia Also Needs PNG, Surfing Decree

PNG, AUSTRALIA, FIJI. It is disturbing to read about Fiji in the PNG-Australia joint communique released after the meeting of their foreign ministers Abal and Smith in Alotau, Milne Bay Province last week.

The two Fiji clauses could have been tagged on as a sort of necessary afterthought to discussion on the Australian $457.2 million 2010-11 Budget aid package, an increase in ODA, co-operation on the LNG (liquidised natural gas) project, minerals, Torres Strait, seasonal workers, and the nostalgic Kokoda Trail**

But I think PNG would be quite aware that this Australian "benevolence"  comes at a price.

Paras 48 and 49 read:
  •  Ministers reaffirmed the commitment of both countries to working together to help Fiji return to democracy and the rule of law. 
  •  Ministers expressed grave concern about the continuing deteriorating economic and political condition in Fiji. 

Ministers noted that the Fiji interim government had taken actions further to limit free speech, and deny Fiji's people their human and democratic rights. Ministers reaffirmed their support for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders', and for Commonwealth Heads of Governments' suspensions of Fiji. Ministers urged the Fiji interim government to take concrete measures to return to democracy and the rule of law.

The rhetoric is not new.  They insist the situation continues to deteriorate, despite the evidence. When will it ever end? Soon it could be as bad as that endured by the indigenous people of West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) about whom the ministers had nothing to say.

I think PNG is underplaying their hand.  They need not go cap in hand to receive Australian aid and economic co-operation because Australia needs them at least as much as they need Australia. Their strength lies not just in natural resources of interest to Australian companies, but in the "cheap" protection the country gives Australia's northern frontiers.

Imagine a PNG where, due to Indonesia cross-border intrusions, civil unrest or government connivance, the country became a base or destination for boat people from South Asia and Chinese hoping to leapfrog into Australia, triad gangs, illegal Indonesian fishermen, drug smugglers, questionable Asian and Chinese entrepreneurs, money launderers and human traffickers. Australia's RAMSI mission in Solomon Islands would be nothing compared to a situation like this.

Australia needs PNG to be peaceful and orderly, whatever the price. It is for this reason that PNG can afford to play a much more independent role in Asia-Pacific, and put real pressure on Australia to moderate its policy on Fiji. They will have the opportunity at the Melanesian Spearhead Group Plus meeting at Natadola, Fiji, in two weeks time.

** Kokoda Trail, along which Papuan "fuzzy wuzzy angels" dragged supplies and the Australian wounded during World War II, and for they also died, or received no or minimal war pensions many years later.  For many years they were not even officially thanked.

SURFING DECREE. The newly promulgated Surfing Decree opens up the country's surfing spots by vesting all powers in those areas in the Director of Lands and overriding all title claims and possibilities of payments for the use of those areas.

The move is expected to create a marine industry that will create jobs, upskilling and economic growth and put Fiji on the world surfing map. One estimate is that it could bring an additional 20,000 tourists a year. Previously a number of surfing areas were exclusively licensed to a couple of hotel operators, which deprived other tourists and Fijians from access. There are numerous reports of tourists and Fijian surfers being physically and violently harassed and assaulted for surfing at these exclusive surfing areas.

Speaking on the Decree, the Attorney-General and Minister of Tourism said, “We see again that since Cabinet announced the decree, the beneficiaries of the exclusive rights have began a campaign of propaganda and misinformation. We urge them to refrain as this decree is for the benefit of all and of Fiji, and not just a select few operators or the rich.”

He said free access also provides "a wonderful opportunity for all Fijians including i taukei landowners in the proximity of these surfing areas to profit directly and indirectly by way of engaging in businesses themselves as opposed to relying on handouts from  hotel operators who charge premium rates." There will be opportunities for surf-tour operators, life savers, surfing-specialised hotels, backpacker resorts, and home stays. This will be  particularly so in rural and outer islands such as Lau and Kadavu where additional employment can now be generated.” Anyone may now access and use any surfing area for surfing or any water sport without payment, permit or approval.

The Decree overrides i-taukei qoliqoli rights in these areas much as NZ's Foreshore and Seabed legislation overrode Maori traditional rides, making access to the sea the right of all New Zealanders.  But it does have the potential to generate much more income for villagers and others living in surfing areas than some of them obtained from previous "arrangements" with resort owners. The Government seems determined to turn Fiji's land and sea resources to commercial use in the expectation this will assist the economy and benefit all, including i-taukei who often previously received only token benefit from ownership.


Dream on said…
You are starting to sound a little frustrated and angry? Understandable given your lack of any results in supporting the military junta. However don't blame yourself - the illegal regime has brought the problems on themselves as the situation in Fiji continues to deteriorate under incompetent military leadership.
As for now buying into PNG - we suggest you just stick to Fiji - you've got your hands full dealing with that failing state without spreading your chaos any wider.
Have a good day old boy!
sara'ssista said…
it is intersting to see you are encouraging PNG to play the 'help us or we will be taken over by triads/organised crime/people smugglers - blackmail' It is the countries in the region responsibility to get their act together and if they don't want aid then good, couldn't be happier for that, but to moan every time there is a statement made by your friends in the region that doesn't fit with the regime's spinv is immature, then to go an link it to patronage rather than genuine concerns is hardly surpising given your cheerleading role with the current junta. The situation did get worse given the latest decree on the media, no-one with nay inetrst in the filed would doubt that, we all know exactly who is targetted and why, please don't presume that this regime is doing anything benevolent in the interest of a free and fair media, it only those benefitting from this that agree and you only have to look at the actions taken by this regime, intimidation, threats deportaions arrests etc that suggest that your faith in them being the guarantor of media standards is laughable. No cililised country in the region treats nayone like this. BTW is the PER still in place?

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