PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 14) – The Report of the Australian Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Trade and Defense on Canberra’s relations with Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island countries tabled in the Federal Parliament this week will not result in any shift in policy unless John Howard and his Government accept and act on the wide range of recommendations contained in it.

The Committee has done a commendable job and the Report reflects the wide-ranging consultations it had had with Pacific islands leaders both in Government, public service, business and civil during its whirlwind tour of the islands.

The Report confirms the view that Australia needs to do more to improve its relations at a personal level with leaders and people of the small island states. Australia’s security and future is very much connected with the security and survival of the small island countries and the Australian Government and politicians cannot ignore that fact.

The Report clearly highlights the many serious problems facing island countries and the urgency of Australia focusing its attention more on those problems to save their neighbors from total collapse.

Australia has many serious international issues on its agenda — not least is the war against terrorism. But this Report also reminds Canberra that its relations with its tiny neighbors goes far beyond handing over aid checks every year. By the same token, Pacific island leaders should also take their jobs more seriously in fighting corruption, ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability in the way they run their countries.

The record of some governments, including PNG, leaves a lot to be desired. The problems highlighted in this Report will only be solved if the island leaders show more commitment towards tackling them to ensure prosperity and progress of their countries and people.

It is pointless blaming Australia every time something goes wrong in Port Moresby or elsewhere in this region when the people have elected leaders to solve those problems and provide a better future for their people.

August 14, 2003

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:


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