Relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea

There is no question that if we are to improve the quality of the relationship between Australia and  Papua New Guinea we need to rethink the aid relationship. This is, of course, easier said than done, and has already been attempted a few times. But especially in light of changes in the PNG economy, it needs to be done again. A particular focus has to be increasing the capacity of PNG government officials, rather than simply implanting Australian officials in the PNG bureaucracy because we do not think their officials are up to the task.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill earned shrill headlines in Australia in August 2015 following a statement on how he believed the aid relationship could improve. He was said to have plans to "boot out Australian officials" working for his government and that he would "turf out all foreign advisers by the year's end'.
The full statement, in fact, should be welcomed by Australia as it indicated a determination by PNG to take greater control of tackling its problems. "As a developing country we don't want handouts," O'Neill said, "we don't want Australian taxpayer money wasted and we don't want boomerang aid." His complaint was about how much money never reached its real purpose. 
"Development assistance has become a billion dollar 'industry' where so much of the goodwill ends up in the pockets of middlemen and expensive consultants," he said. '" wonder if the people of Australia realise how much of the money they give to help Papua New Guinea and other countries is actually paid to middlemen and lawyers." He said that rather than having advisers who worked for their own governments he wanted to move to a model in 2016 "where our partners will be welcome to fund positions within our government. These staff can then work and report through the Papua New Guinea government system and we will deliver their salaries through arrangements with the donor countries." He predicted this would help strengthen PNG's government systems from within and gradually wean PNG off development assistance.
O'Neill also forecast a change to the policing assistance given by Australia."We have had a policing partnership program in place for a couple of years now and I think all parties agree, the benefits are limited due to restrictions placed on the Australian police," O'Neill said.
"We have Australian police officers who are committed to strengthening law enforcement in our country, but they are frustrated by the bureaucracy that means they cannot do hands-on policing. I cannot imagine being a police officer who is told that if they see a crime being committed, he or she has to stand back and watch. We would like to recruit foreign police into line positions within the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary so they can lead by example and pass on their knowledge and skills."
There are signs that the government is shifting to a greater focus on capacity. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has pushed for the creation of a Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct in Port Moresby to improve the training of PNG public servants.
Back in the colonial era, Australia had a highly regarded training institute in Sydney called the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA). It ran tertiary level courses for people recruited to work in PNG, including the kiaps and teachers. In 1970 it started training Papua New Guineans when Australia realised there was going to be a serious shortage of well-trained and qualified indigenous people to replace the Australians. My sister-in-law spent 10 months there in the mid-1970s doing a management training course. This new Governance Precinct that Australia is funding is, in some ways, ASOPA resurrected. The aim is to build leadership and management skills across all levels of the PNG public service.
In a press release issued for the launch of the precinct in November 2015, Julie Bishop said, "The institutions involved in the precinct will work closely with the public and private sector to foster the ethical, practical and intellectual framework to help build the leadership qualities and skills of government officials."
Papua New Guineans are also seriously underrepresented in Australia's Seasonal Worker Program. This program allows companies to recruit Pacific Islanders to work in Australia's horticulture, accommodation, aquaculture, cane and cotton industries. The Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme was introduced in 2008 and ran until mid-2012.
Although the modest cap on the pilot program was 2500 workers, the numbers who came in to take up short-term employment fell well short of that, at 1534. Of those, 1250 were Tongans while only 82 came in from PNG. A permanent scheme is now in place allowing Pacific Islanders to work in Australia "for a single approved Australian employer for a period of between 14 weeks and 6 months". The cap on numbers for 2015-16 is 4250. New Zealand has a similar seasonal labour scheme which is working much better and takes twice as many Pacific Islanders.

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