Fiji general election … a disappointing low voter turnout but the atrocious weather is an insufficient reason. Image: Wansolwara
ANALYSIS:By Dr Crosbie Walsh
With the final results from 1715 (79 percent) of the 2173 polling stations now counted, who will form the next Fiji government is still too close to call, although the trend since earlier announcements — and the preliminary results announced on Thursday — indicate a narrow win for FijiFirst.
As of 1pm today, FijiFirst had 49.93 percent of the vote, SODELPA 39.96 percent and National Federation Party (NFP) 7.36 percent. The other parties had a combined total of 2.74 percent, well below the 5 percent threshold to win a seat.
What has been most disappointing is the low voter turnout. The atrocious weather did not help but in itself is an insufficient reason.
There are likely to be a mix of reasons but their relative importance will remain unknown. They could perhaps have chosen not to vote because they are happy with the status quo under FijiFirst.
They could have expected FijiFirst to win, so why bother? They could have been overwhelmed and confused by the many pressures to vote from FijiFirst and the pressures and rumours from the Opposition.
Or they could have thought the election result would not improve their lives whatever the outcome.
So what can we deduce from the results so far?
‘Work in progress’ Bainimarama’s FijiFirst seems likely to win 27 seats, SODELPA 20 and NFP 4 seats in the 51-seat chamber.
The aim of the 2013 constitution in abolishing race-based elections which favoured the chiefly Taukei appears to be a work “still in progress”. SODELPA is essentially a Taukei party with 43 of its 51 candidates Taukei, 4 Indo-Fijians and 4 Others.
NFP, a traditional Indo-Fijian party, had made serious efforts to be more multiracial. Nineteen of its 51 candidates are Taukei, 29 Indo-Fijians and 3 Others.
FijiFirst is the most balanced party with 26 Taukei, 23 Indo-Fijian and 2 Others. It even has two chiefs! But no paramount chiefs.
Two heads of Confederacies, Ro Teimumu Kepa (Burebasaga) and Naiqama Lalabalavu (Tovata), are SODELPA candidates. The Kubuna headship is at present vacant.
A Rotuman, Pasepa Lagi, out-polled Bainimarama and all other candidates in Rotuma.
A casual examination of voting by the type and location of polling station shows race and parochial interests to still be very evident.
Village voting People voting in Taukei villages generally voted SODELPA, no doubt due to the influence of village heads (turaga ni koro). This pattern did not seem to be influenced by whether or not the FijiFirst government had spent money on local development.
So much for the social media and opposition claims that FijiFirst was buying votes. Those in (mainly Indo-Fijian) settlements voted FijiFirst or NFP.
In urban areas, voting also seemed to be greatly influenced by race, and to a lesser extent by economic wellbeing.
Three types of polling stations deserve special mention. Those located in military areas voted overwhelmingly for FijiFirst (which reduces the prospect of another coup); police areas were about equally divided between FijiFirst and SODELPA, and Corrections were predominantly SODELPA.
One further initial observation is the different distribution of candidate preferences. Bainimarama was the first choice with 36.8 percent for FijiFirst votes.
SODELPA’s Rabuka only accounted for 17 percent with other candidates scoring higher than with FijiFirst.
Interestingly, Ro Teimumu Kepa only won 1.2 percent of SODELPA votes. This suggests more parochially-orientated voting for SODELPA and perhaps what could be called more nationally-orientated voting with FijiFirst.
But individual SODELPA candidates may have been better known in particular locations.
The geography of how people voted in 2014 and 2018 by polling station would make a very good topic for a master’s thesis. There are certainly enough hypotheses to test.
Retired University of the South Pacific development studies professor Crosbie Walsh is a New Zealand-based academic. His articles are published by Asia Pacific Report with permission.
Some critics say that China’s latest behaviour toward foreign journalists casts doubt over its vow to treat neighbours with “respect”. Image: Natalie Whiting/ABC News/My Land, My Country
By Scott Waide
Papua New Guinea’s freedoms of speech, expression and access to information were challenged yesterday when Chinese officials barred both local and non-Chinese media from attending meetings at three Asia-Pacific Economy Cooperation (APEC) venues.
It began in Parliament when Chinese President Xi Jinping was giving an address after a guard of honour.
EMTV journalist Theckla Gunga, who was assigned to cover the Chinese President’s visit, reported that just after 11am, Chinese officials accompanying their president ordered the microphones to be removed from the speaker where they had been placed to record the speeches.
“Chinese officials who are organising the official opening of the Chinese-funded six lane road have refused to give audio feeds to media personnel,” she said in a WhatsApp message.
“Microphones belonging to both local and international media have been removed,” said Gunga.
The officials, however, allowed Chinese state-owned broadcaster CCTV to record President’s Xi speech.
Gunga and other journalists spent about 10 minutes arguing with the Chinese officials but were still refused.
‘No media, no media’ One hour later, EMTV Online reporter Merylyn Diau-Katam faced another group of Chinese officials at the gate of a Chinese government-funded school.
“Before the President arrived a bus full of Chinese media personnel were driven into the gate on a bus,” she said.
“And when we wanted to go in, we were told our names were not on the list even though we had APEC accreditation passes,” Diau-Katam.
“No media. No media, a Chinese official said,” she said.
Diau-Katam was not the only one refused entry. In the group was a photographer from Japanese public broadcaster, NHK and other media. A PNG government official also spent several minutes arguing with the Chinese security to let him in.
At 5pm yesterday, Chinese officials again booted out local and international media from a meeting between the Chinese President and Pacific Island country leaders.
EMTV anchor and senior journalist, Meriba Tulo, was among others told to “get out” of the meeting while Chinese media were allowed into the room.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was also told to leave. They spoke to Post-Courier’s senior journalist, Gorethy Kenneth. She said Chinese officials from Beijing were initially angry with the presence of international media.
“I said: ‘We are here to cover the meeting, our names have been submitted.’ And they said: ‘No, all of you get out,’” Kenneth said.
Scott Waide’s blog columns are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. He is also EMTV deputy news editor based in Lae.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Prime Minister of PNG Peter O’Neill shaking hands. Image: Solomon Kantha/My Land My Country
COMMENTARY:By Scott Waide
In November every year, the Papua New Guinean National budget usually takes centre stage. But not this year.
This week, the 2019 budget came two days before the start of the biggest meetings of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation). People were interested in it for a day, then it faded into the background.
Then BOOM… Enter China-US geopolitics…
On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the most influential world leader in the Asia-Pacific arrived in Port Moresby with the largest delegation of officials.
They came on two large planes and the festivities for his delegation demonstrated just how important China’s money is to the Papua New Guinea ( government.
World politics is being played out on PNG soil. It already is, by the way.
From the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Singapore, US Vice President, Mike Pence indicated he would be revealing how “dangerous” the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative is to the rest of the world including the Pacific.
Infrastructure projects This announcement comes on the back of US$60 billion funding (about NZ$87 billion) aimed at the Asia-Pacific region. Also note that China has allocated the same amount to African countries for various projects including infrastructure.
Australia has announced its own funding initiatives for the Pacific of 7 billion Kina (NZ$3 billion).
In the foreign ministers’ meeting, the US-China tension is already being felt as the US and China tussle over free trade and other issues.
On the ground in Port Moresby, there is a strong US and Australian military presence.
From China, a strong trade presence and message about building relationships. From the outset, China appears to have all its moves planned out and is ticking off each item on its list of things to do.
At least for the government, the attention from world leaders is important. Maybe APEC is an opportunity. Maybe it is a double edged sword – with opportunity on the one side and debt on the other as has been the case in other countries like Sri Lanka.
What stands out is China’s willingness to engage. President Xi is here for four days. America’s Trump and Russia’s Putin both sent their number twos.
As US Vice-President Pence, tweeted and jetted into Cairns, President Jinping met with Pacific Island Forum leaders and representatives in Port Moresby in the afternoon.
Scott Waide’s blog columns are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. He is also EMTV deputy news editor based in Lae.
The Free Papua Movement (OPM) Southern Commander Bernard Mawen has died. He was the “grand old man” of the OPM, one of the first to begin the armed struggle for independence in West Papua in the 1960s and he will be missed by his people.
I interviewed him in 1998 in his camp along the Fly river on the border where he lived among the thousands of West Papuan refugees forgotten on the PNG border, who live on little more than sago and bananas.
Indirectly, his OPM guerrillas remain a protective buffer for both PNG and Australia against Indonesian aggression but it’s unlikely you’ll hear any eulogies from Canberra or Moresby and certainly not from Jakarta.
He lived for his people, in the bush, and that’s all you can ask of a leader. RIP.
David Robie, who reported from New Caledonia several times during the 1980s for Islands Business magazine, The Australian, New Zealand Times and other media, returned to the French Pacific possession to observe last weekend’s historic referendum. He was also on board the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace environmental ship that was bombed by French secret agents during the height of “les évènements”. He reflects in the second of two articles.
PART 2:By David Robie in Nouméa
A cartoon published by Nouméa’s daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, on the eve of the historic independence referendum in New Caledonia at the weekend caught my eye. Noting that thanks to the referendum, people throughout the world – with the possible exception of at least New Zealand whose media was largely absent – were talking about New Caledonia.
“We’re demanding one referendum a month,” says a travel agent.
A touch cynical perhaps, but this caricatured sentiment contrasts with the anti-independence parties that want to scotch the next two referendums – due in 2020 and 2022 – provided for under the 1998 Nouméa Accord. This agreement was an updated version of the original Matignon Accord that ended the civil unrest of the 1980s and opened the door to long-term stability and progress.
The three anti-independence parties, Les Republicains led by Sonia Backès (New Caledonia’s version of Marine le Pen?), Rassemblement and Caledonie Ensemble, reckon that the people have spoken and there is now no need of further referendums.
They were shocked that the indépendantistes did so well given that they had already written off the “declining” demand for independence and were confidently predicting a crushing 70/30.
The referendum choice was simple and stark. Voters simply had to respond yes or no to the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?”
Credible independence vote The “no” response slipped to a 56.4 percent vote while the “yes” vote wrested a credible 43.6 percent share with a record 80 percent turnout.
The final vote count … an unexpectedly close result between the “no” and “yes” vote, offering hope for the Kanaks. Image: Caledonia TV
The encouraging yes vote is even more remarkable when it is taken into account the demographic gerrymandering by the French government that ensured the indigenous Kanaks – who have ruled by France for 165 years since New Caledonia was declared a penal colony in 1853 – would remain a minority in their homeland and in this vote.
More than 20,000 convicts were shipped to New Caledonia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Muslim rebels fighting against colonisation in Algeria, and dissidents from the 1870 Paris commune. Later migrants included Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese (North Vietnamese) labourers in the nickel mines.
Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese migrants among the early nickel mine workers and settlers as portrayed in Nouméa’s City Museum. Image: David Robie/PMC
Of the 174,154 registered referendum voters, 80,120 were Kanak and 94,034 on the common civil role were also entitled to voted. In the end, a total of 141,099 people cast a vote.
Forty percent of the New Caledonian population are Melanesian Kanaks, 29 percent European, and 9 percent are Polynesians from Wallis and Futuna Islands. The rest are a mixture of Asian and Pacific communities.
Voter restrictions The referendum voters were restricted under the Noumea accord to those eligible under these criteria:
Registered on the special referendum role (or fulfilled its requirements without being registered);
Born in New Caledonia and registered on the provincial electoral roles.
Lived in New Caledonia for a continuous 20 years;
Born before 1 January 1989 and lived in New Caledonia from 1988 to 1998;
Born after 1 January 1989 with a parent on the special electoral role; and
Born in New Caledonia with three years’ continuous residence (before 31 August 2018).
Pro-independence Radio Djiido’s editor-in-chief Romain Hneum takes the pulse of the voting mood at Noumea’s Hotel de Ville. Image: David Robie/PMC
The encouraging mobilisation of youth voters, a significant change since the 2014 provincial elections, and the emergence of a growing cadre of young multi-ethnic voters who are more open to a shared future than some of their conservative parents augurs well for the indépendantistes.
“This referendum was a victory for the youth. The loyalists’ predictions were thwarted, said FLNKS president Roch Wamytan. “This vote was a big leap forward. We will continue on our pathway, we will prepare the people in New Caledonia for independence.
“The struggle isn’t over until we are decolonised. One winner in the vote was fear. Over the past six months, we have tried to allay fears about retirement provisions, security and education. We clearly didn’t do enough. We will work harder on this for the next ballot.”
FLNKS official Alosio Sako said: “We’re a short step from victory, and there are still two more ballots to come.”
Independence inevitable Some who voted against independence are resigned to the belief that one day New Caledonia will become independent.
“Silver fern” voters … Spanish-French father and son Arnaud and Manuel Fuentes are opposed to independence but are definitely fans of the All Blacks. Image: David Robie/PMC
Talking to a traveller, Sammy, a Lebanese-born New Caledonian with a French passport, and his Caldoche (settler) wife, who were on my flight back to Auckland and heading to Hanmer Springs for a holiday in “très jolie” New Zealand, gave me some interesting insights.
Ironically, Sammy migrated to New Caledonia after “les évènements” in the 1980s which led to the Matignon Accord in 1988 – to escape the civil war in Lebanon.
“Independence is inevitable,” he says. “I only wish they would get on with it and not have votes, delaying things. Build for the future instead of yet another vote.
“In spite of the vote against independence, it is the way it is going. One day New Caledonia will be independent so it is best to restart our future now. We have a chance to build something really new.”
“The indépendantistes are very determined.”
He seemed to be reflecting the view of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who flew to Nouméa from Vietnam for a day to meet political and civic leaders, and was whisked up to the Northern province stronghold “capital”Koné.
Philippe declared that a meeting would be held with the accord “signatories” next month and he hinted at some key policy changes to deal with social conditions and “balancing” the economic cleavage in this nickel rich and tourism booming territory.
Spread in Geo What made Sammy choose New Caledonia? It was so far away from Lebanon – “it was just like Syria is today” – and he had read an article about New Caledonia in the French magazine Geo.
In fact, Geo has just published a cover story last month about New Caledonia headed “New Caledonia: So near, so far”, a 43-page spread dedicated to the beauty, culture, environment and flora and fauna of this “marvellous” archipelago. It would entice anyone.
The magazine quotes linguist and poet Emmanuel Tjibaou, one of six sons of the Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou assassinated in 1989 (see Part1), who has been director of the stunning Tjibaou Centre, a cultural memorial to his father, since 2012.
“Being ’Kanak’, or a ‘man’, isn’t a question of skin colour,” he says. “The centre introduces Melanesian culture to Western eyes that are not accustomed to it. Kanak traditions are oral, like elsewhere in Oceania. We live our culture – we discover it through singing, or dancing; we speak, or we weep.”
Independent Caledonia TV … making waves and telling the stories of all ethnicities. Image: Screen shots from NCTV
Another example of emerging “new wave” institutions is a small upstart digital television channel based at Koné. Funded largely by the Kanak-governed Northern province, it is a breath of fresh air compared with the dominant Premiere television (part state-run networks with six channels that look to Paris) and Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, which has been very hostile to independence in the past, but is more subdued these days.
Caledonia TV making mark Caledonia TV is already making its mark as an independent channel that is “telling our own stories” about Kanak culture, music and traditions and exploring all ethnicities in New Caledonia.
It played an important role in the referendum by setting up TV studios in the University of New Caledonia and providing balanced coverage and ready access for grassroots people to an engage in a dialogue about their future.
Caledonia TV reporter Duke Menango … telling stories with a difference. Image: David Robie/PMC
I caught up with one of the journalists involved in referendum coverage in the campus studios, Duke Menango, who did some of his early training as a journalist at Aoraki Polytechnic journalism school in Dunedin on a New Zealand aid scholarship.
“Caledonia TV started off as a web-based channel in 2012 and then became a fully fledged TV station the following year,” he said.
“It was important to give people a choice. Previously television was dominated by the state media monopoly with only one direction and one point of view. I don’t think we were being well represented as Kanaks and as Kanak reporters.
“With us, we are going out to the people – the grassroots, and we are giving them a voice. A voice for the different tribes. And it isn’t just the tribes, we are telling the stories of all ethnicities.
“We’re giving everybody a voice.”
Caledonia TV … culture and storytelling from a Pacific perspective. Video: PMC
Stiff challenge But Caledonia faces a stiff challenge from the “mainstream” media, which is largely not sympathetic to independence.
On the weekend of the referendum, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes devoted a full page for an editorial denouncing independence.
“France or the unknown?” warned editor-in-chief Olivier Poisson, who derided the FLNKS, claiming that it was presenting an unclear, even “confusing” platform, with contradictory objectives.
“In contrast, it’s a fact that we know New Caledonia is already independent. For sure, it isn’t a question of full sovereignty, but whether the country already decides its economic orientation, imposes its own taxes, leads education, runs health, and is able to enter into international accords and partnerships.”
Finally, his message was: “It’s too risky to take on powers that are too great for so little to gain.”
His message irked many indépendantistes, and drew criticism that the newspaper was illegally breaching the political blackout prior to the referendum
“What kind of bullshit is that again?” asked Magalie Tingal Lémé, a former news editor of the pro-independence Radio Djiido. “The editor-in-chief is not supposed to make any comments since the official campaign is over since last night. Some journalists should start being real journalists in this country.”
Merut Kilamu being given the last bottles of Amoxycillin suspension for her baby. Image: Scott Waide/My Land, My Country blog
COMMENTARY:By Scott Waide
In Lae City, Papua New Guinea’s second-largest city, there are seven urban clinics, each serving between 100 and 150 patients a day. They get their medical supplies form the Government Area Medical Store (AMS) in Lae.
The AMS in Lae also supplies the Highlands and the rest of Momase.
For the last six years, staff at the clinics have been battling medicine shortages. You can see, first hand, how the medicine shortage affects people in Lae.
At Buimo Clinic on Friday, a mother and baby came in for treatment. She was told that the last bottles of Amoxicillin suspensions would be given for her child and that she would have to go to a pharmacy to complete the treatment course.
The woman’s name is Merut Kilamu. She lives with her family at Bundi Camp in Lae. She is not just a statistic. She is a real person who is bearing the brunt of the ongoing medicine shortages.
“Sometimes, we are able to buy the medicine,” she says. “Other times, when we don’t have the money, we can’t buy what we need.”
Patients go from the clinics to Angau Hospital in the hope that they will get the medicines they need. But Angau can’t handle the numbers. Hospital staff have even posted on Facebook saying they too need the basic supplies of antibiotics, antimalarial drugs and consumables like gauze, gloves and syringes.
Hospitals and clinics have become little more than prescription factories channeling their patients to pharmacies who charge the patients upwards of K40 (about NZ$18) for medicines. Pharmacies are profiting from the desperation and ill health of the Papua New Guineans.
Prices increased In 2017, when clinics ran out of antimalarial drugs, pharmacies increased the prices.
In some instances, officers in charge of clinics felt the need to negotiate with pharmacies to keep their prices within an affordable range. It is difficult for staff in smaller clinics to send away patients knowing they can’t afford to pay for medicines.
“Sometimes, we can’t send them away. Staff have to fork out the money to help them pay,” says Miriam Key, nurse manager at Buimo clinic.
This is a nationwide medicine shortage!
As much as the politicians dislike it, social media gives a pretty accurate dashboard view of the health system from the end user. Charles Lee posted on Facebook about how the medicine shortage was affecting his family in Mt Hagen.
“Relatives in Hagen have flown to POM to seek medical treatment because of a shortage of drugs in Hagen.”
His post drew more than 20 comments.
Gloria Willie said from Mt Hagen:
“They just discharged a relative from ICU and we are taking her to Kundjip (Jiwaka Province) today and if they are not allowed to receive medical attention then, we are also planning to bring her to port Moresby. It is really frustrating. But because of our loved ones, we are trying any possible way to have them treated.”
‘Stay at home’ Melissa Pela responded saying:
“Same here in Kavieng. Patients told to buy Panadol and keep at home. If you feel something like fever/running nose etc.. just take it. They say treat it before it becomes serious because there is simply no medicine.”
The officer in charge of Barevaturu clinic in Oro Province, Nigel Tahima, said by phone, the they are seeing an increase in the number of patients because other clinics just don’t have medicine.
The reports are flooding in from all over the country. There are too many to mention in one blog post.
If urban clinics are a gauge to measure the flow of medicines from the AMS to the patient, you can imagine what rural clinics are going through.
They are too far from the AMSs and too far to adequately monitor. The only way to get an understanding of their problems is when staff make contact or when you go there.
Scott Waide’s blog columns are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. He is also EMTV deputy news editor based in Lae.
Evening Report Analysis – National Affairs and the Public Interest, by Selwyn Manning.
Accusations have surfaced alleging the current National Party leadership conspired to politically destroy Jami-Lee Ross – this after details of his affair with a fellow party MP became known to them. The allegations raise serious questions. Those questions include: what did National’s leader and deputy leader know and when did they find out?
A sworn to timeline of events is now essential so that the public interest can be satisfied. This must be a crucial element that is cemented in to the methodology of Simon Bridges’ inquiry into the culture of the National Party. Above all, it must be independent and publicly accessible.
The inquiry must examine the National leadership team’s actions and culture, test whether they acted in a proper and timely manner, and assess whether their actions considered a concern for the welfare and mental health of an MP they had previously supported, promoted, and embedded within their leadership team.
It follows that allegations suggesting a “hit job” was orchestrated from inside the National Party leadership must also be independently explored.
If the inquiry finds that either the leader, or deputy leader, was part of a destructive and inhumane attack on Jami-Lee Ross – while it was known that he was at high risk of being pushed over the edge, was ill, and verging on suicide – and that they acted without reasonable regard for his welfare, then it must be accepted by the National Party caucus, its membership and the public, that this National leadership team is at the very least morally bankrupt.
This inquiry ought to be conducted amidst a background whereby Ross declared his role in the destructive side of politics; following the orders of Sir John Key, Bill English, Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges. Ross was afterall a ‘numbers man’ for Bridges, and benefitted from the patronage that the Bridges-Bennett leadership team offered.
There are a number of ‘ifs’ in this analysis, but the public interest demands that they be considered.
The allegations have surfaced on the blog-site Whaleoil which is owned and edited by controversial writer Cameron Slater.
Some may dismiss the allegations on the basis of tribalism, or ignore the allegations because Slater was centrally involved in National’s so called Dirty Politics as revealed in 2014. But the nature of the allegations are as serious as they get in politics, and, if accurate played a part in the sudden deterioration of Jami-Lee Ross’ mental health, the sectioning of Ross for his own protection, and the erasion of credibility of a potential political opponent who was determined to continue as a critical member of New Zealand’s Parliament.
This analysis’ argument suggests any such bias, on behalf by Cameron Slater’s opponents, ought to be ethically and morally put aside until such a time as the truth and facts are tested. Such an inquiry, preferably judicial but essentially independent, must be robust and critical in its analysis.
To reiterate; numerous elements of this saga elevate the issues to a matter of serious public interest.
And it must be noted at this juncture, that the party’s leader Simon Bridges insists he has acted appropriately and denies taking part in any political “hit job”.
Let’s examine what Evening Report has learned from contacts close to events.
Alleged details of events between Saturday-Sunday October 20-21
There is a txt-chain of events that investigators can forensically examine that are central to understanding who was involved in the sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross.
If the txts are examined they will determine if it is fact that the National Party MP, with whom Jami-Lee Ross had a three-year affair, rang the Police and that as a consequence of that call the Police used mental health laws to take Jami-Lee Ross into custody and contain him within the mental health unit at Counties Manukau Health.
Txts will also show whether it is fact that the female MP then called Simon Bridges’ chief of staff at 9:15pm on Saturday October 20 informing him of the events. If so Bridges’ office was aware of an alleged suicide attempt. Investigators would then be able to assess whether a txt message from Jami-Lee Ross’ psychologist, who Evening Report understands messaged Jami-Lee Ross at 9:28pm on Saturday October 20, asking if he was ok, and that the psychologist had minutes prior received a txt message from Jamie Gray, Simon Bridges’ chief of staff.
It is a matter of public record that Simon Bridges appeared on NewsHub’s AM Show on Tuesday October 23, denying all knowledge of events on the Saturday night – that is until a wider grouping within the National Party became privy to what had happened to Jami-Lee Ross.
It appears reasonable to form an opinion that Bridges’ chief of staff would have informed the leader of such an event. If he didn’t, why didn’t he inform Bridges?
The sectioning of Jami-Lee Ross ended a week where many National Party MPs, and a wider network of those loyal to the party, appeared to be actively orchestrating a coordinated campaign to destroy the so-called rogue MP’s political chances and to discredit his claims of corruption within the National Party leadership. Had Jami-Lee Ross abused his position as the senior whip within the party? It certainly appears so. Did he abuse the power he was afforded? Media reports would suggest this was so. Did he have an affair with at least two women? Yes. But it appears that the public attacks began, not at the time when senior members of the party were informed of Ross’ actions, but, once Ross began to attack the leadership. This is significant.
An Opposition’s Role As The Public’s Advocate
As senior representatives of New Zealand’s Legislature, leader Simon Bridges and deputy leader Paula Bennett can arguably be regarded as the public’s advocates within Parliament. Their job is to keep the Executive Government on its toes, challenge its policy and rationale, to be Parliament’s keepers of the public’s interest.
As such, the public deserves to know if the leaders, as a team or individually, conspired to destroy the political chances of an MP and former colleague, who they considered to have gone rogue, and who they knew was suffering a crisis of mental health so serious that it could have ended in death.
It is in consideration of the public interest, that this editorial is written.
We now know as fact, Jami-Lee Ross had a three year affair with a South Island-based National MP.[name withheld]. Like him, she has two children and was married.
While the affair was going ‘well’, contacts inside the National Party have told Evening Report that Jami-Lee encouraged Bridges to promote his lover above her standing and reputation in caucus, well above some high profile MPs like National’s Chris Bishop who are respected among colleagues and media and seen to have been doing their job well. The promotion was seen to give leverage, to sure up the numbers to stabilise Bridges’ and Bennett’s leadership team at a time when they sensed support was delicate.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross continued to pull in big donations from wealthy Chinese residents in his Botany electorate. As a reward, Bridges embedded him into his inner core, the top three. Politically, this is really an unsound move by a political leader. With Ross being senior whip, he is supposed to be directed by the leader to pull MPs into line, to do the leader’s bidding, and to do this without necessarily knowing the deep and dark details underlying the leader’s moves.
In effect, with Jami-Lee Ross becoming a central figure, knowing all the details, the dirt, the strategy and tactics, it centralised too much power into the whip position and elevated a real danger of a whip using the position for his own gain. To reiterate, this appears a seriously stupid move of Bridges and Bennett to pull a whip in on their machinations. And, in a significant contact’s view, it appears they risked this because Jami-Lee was pulling in the donor money.
Jami-Lee Ross had been on the rise for a time. Former Prime Minister John Key promoted him to the whips office. Then PM Bill English secured Ross’s rise by maintaining and elevating his whip role. Bridges and Bennett further empowered Jami-Lee Ross by cementing him into the whip position, a move that suggested National’s power-politicians were well satisfied with his service.
It’s hard to tell how far back it was when Jami-Lee Ross began to record Bridges. And, at this juncture, it’s difficult to know if he recorded Bennett as well. The public is left to fathom whether it was when his affair with the National MP went sour and perhaps Ross sensed Bennett having become close to her.
In any event, when Jami-Lee Ross fell out with his colleague and lover, sources say Bennett played a crucial role in the analysis of his conduct, in particular women who had allegedly been burned by Ross. Two women, contacts inside National state were staff of the National Party leader. The MP (whom Ross had a three-year affair with) and the two staff members are said by National Party contacts to be the subject of NewsRoom.co.nz’s investigation into Ross’ activities, an investigation that is believed to have spanned up to one year in duration. Evening Report raises this aspect as the public interest demands to consider whether it is reasonable to believe that two staffers in the leader’s office never told nor informed Bridges, or the chief of staff, that they were cooperating in a media investigation into the leader’s chief and senior whip?
Contacts state that Bennett gained the women’s confidence, received information so it could be prepared as part of a disciplinary process. Did Bennett choose to engage media with this information? If so, once media received the information, what involvement did the deputy leader have or continue to have, or engage with, the complainants and media?
Sources inside National state Bennett then seeded info about Jami-Lee Ross having had an affair. They point to her having hinted at behaviour unbecoming of a married member of Parliament during an interview before TV, radio and print journalists. Did she do this without Bridges knowing or being forewarned.
If true, in effect, this would have driven the narrative ahead of the leader. If so, it is reasonable to fathom that a senior politician would know Bridges would be forced to defend the character-attack campaign that appeared orchestrated and designed to destroy Ross. Amidst the firestorm, National MP Maggie Barry spoke out against Ross with significant indignation. This will have been digested by the public that National had expelled a human predator from its midst. It also gave the impression National’s female caucus members were unified. However, respected MP Nikki Kaye kept out of it. Why?
Next, Bridges was forced to field political journalists’ questions about breaking the old convention that you keep affairs and family issues under the covers.
Bridges was then compelled to inform media that he had “told off” his deputy leader for giving credence that an affair had been ongoing between Ross and a Nat MP. This made Bridges look even weaker.
The future of National’s leadership
National Party contacts suggest Bridges is positioned where he will be forced to absorb the political fallout for what is seen by some as a character assassination campaign gone wrong. One contact states that once Bridges is rendered useless, and the issue dies down, Bennett herself will be well positioned to remove Bridges as leader in 2019.
It is reasonable to form an opinion that senior National MP Judith Collins will also be available if the leadership were to fall vacant. Her popularity is again on the rise.
At this juncture, for Bridges and Bennett, it appears wise for them to expect more National Party dirt to emerge before the end of the year. Evening Report’s sources say: “ample dirt lingers just below the surface.”
For a party that once stated it had no factions, it certainly seems its personality factions are now in all-out political warfare.
Judith Collins’ star has been rising since she returned to the front-bench in opposition. And it has been bolstered by a favourable Colmar Brunton Poll. It’s fair to suggest she has laid heavy hits on Labour’s Housing Minister Phil Twyford. As a consequence, her standing within the caucus has improved. On investigation, it is clear she has not had the loyalty of Jami-Lee Ross since he was promoted by John Key. He, along with Mark Mitchell, then supported Bill English for the leadership. Bennett and Mitchell are politically close. It does appear that moves by some media to connect Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations with a Judith Collins plan as not based on fact.
While there’s an expectation among interested public that Collins will be the next leader, she will need the support of what’s left of National’s social conservatives and those loyal to Nikki Kaye.
For Collins to succeed, she will have to be seen to inoculate the party from damaging information that may be in the possession of Jami-Lee Ross. All the while, she, like Bennett, needs Bridges to continue to fail as a leader.
It is fair to accept, the recordings and damaging information are now with Cam Slater and Simon Lusk. It is also reasonable to suggest that Bridges is a disappointment to some who once supported his bid for leadership. Cam Slater is clearly appalled at what he refers to as a “hit job”.
Slater is adamant that he is not motivated by an agenda, nor by a pitch by a fiscal conservative faction to gain leadership of the National party. Rather he said, he is motivated to help an old friend who the current leadership moved to destroy. He added on his blog-site, if the current leadership continues “to lie” he will continue to reveal the truth.
Meanwhile, Jami-Lee Ross is being reassured and cared for by a mutual friend of his and Slaters who is a pastor with the Seventh Day Adventists.
Contacts say, with regard to Jami-Lee Ross and his National Party former lover and colleague, the three year affair was a relationship that in the end didn’t deliver what either banked on – despite promotions and connections and having benefitted politically from their association.
It’s fair to say, Jami-Lee Ross was out of his experiential depth and in part abusive from the point of view of how to handle political power, networks and consensual relationships.
Two other women who laid complaints about Ross, worked in the leader’s office.
Bridges is adamant he didn’t know about the abuse of power nor the complaints. Did Bennett know? At what point was she privy to the information?
One National Party contact said: “It defies reasonable belief that Bridges didn’t know.”
It is right that Bridges has initiated an inquiry into National’s culture. But that in itself falls short or what the public interest demands. Why? Because the inquiry reports back to Bridges, who as leader may well be one of the protagonists. Also, the report will not be released to the public which leaves it as a golden prize, the holy grail, for any journalist and, irrespective of who it damns or exonerates, will become a currency for any MP with leadership ambitions.
As it now stands, Bridges’ worst nightmare must be not knowing what Jami-Lee Ross recorded and at what point did he begin taping the National Party leader’s conversations.
If those recordings contain further embarrassing or damaging content and references, then he will be finished as leader. Bridges, as leader, even if he has a clear conscience, must be wracking his memory as to past conversations and comments while knowing the conversations may be in the hands of people with whom he has lost their trust.
And the question remains unanswered: Was Paula Bennett recorded as well?
If her actions are found by inquirers to have led an orchestrated political response to Jami-Lee Ross’ revelations, whether that be at the behest or otherwise of the current leader, then this will destroy any higher ambitions that she may have ever contemplated.
It follows, that if the report concludes that the rot inside National extends to its current leadership, then it may well be that Judith Collins will become the leader of the National Party, unopposed.
Whatever the future holds for the National Party, it is in everyone’s interests that an independent judicial investigation into this National affair be conducted in a spirit of openness and propriety.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Evening Report invites any individual connected to this analysis to have a right of reply.
Footnote: Interview between the author and Jami-Lee Ross on his role as a new National Party MP (August 13 2012):
Large landscapes of intact tropical forests will figure prominently in global strategies to avert catastrophic climate change and conserve biodiversity.
In this context, the extensive forests of Papua and West Papua provinces in Indonesia are now becoming the focus of international conservation efforts. There are many inherent perils to this new boom in conservation in the provinces, which could repeat past mistakes that have deprived and dispossessed indigenous Papuans from their lands.
Here we briefly outline the challenges of conservation, development and the recognition of indigenous land rights in West Papua province*, based on our ongoing collaborative applied research projects in the province that began in 2013.
West Papua Province, located in the Bird’s Head region of Papua (New Guinea) with a total area of 9.7 million hectares, retains more than 90 percent of its forest cover (Figure 1).
West Papua Province was created in 2003 by splitting the province previously known as Papua into two provinces. As one of the youngest provinces in Indonesia, West Papua is under pressure to accelerate socio-economic development.
The poverty rate in West Papua is high, although declining. In 2016, one fourth of West Papuans (225,800 people) lived under the regional poverty line, defined as 475 thousand Indonesian rupiah (about US$31) per month (Badan Pusat Statistik, 2017).
The rural areas of West Papua, which are mostly populated by indigenous Papuans, are poorer than urban areas.
Extensive forests Although lagging behind in its socio-economic development, West Papua is one of few provinces with extensive native forests.
The total forest cover in West Papua is approximately 90 percent of the total area, for a total of 8.9 million hectares. This figure includes all forest cover within both state forests and non-forest areas.
Figure 1: Land cover in West Papua province in 2016, based on data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Map: Mongabay
Due to the biological diversity of the province as well its high proportion of forest cover, civil society organisations and international conservation organisations have advocated for the government to declare the province a conservation province.
The provincial government declared in 2015 that it would become a Conservation Province, and the supporting provincial regulation for the conservation province, now retitled as a “Sustainable Development Province”, has been drafted (Note 1).
There are many inherent dangers to the designation of West Papua as a conservation province. The province is rich in its natural environment but also has one of Indonesia’s highest rates of poverty.
Indonesian planning processes have historically not formally acknowledged customary ownership of land or zoned as forest areas.
By zoning areas as part of the forest estate, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, with conservation areas managed by the central government. There are several types of conservation areas under Indonesian law, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and hunting parks.
People displaced Within the core areas of national parks and also the entire area of wildlife sanctuaries, no land uses are permitted. The establishment of conservation areas in Indonesia has historically led to the significant displacement of indigenous peoples from the core areas, restricting their access to both land and livelihoods.
The provincial government of West Papua, with the support of the Papuan People’s Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua) and civil society organisations (Note 2), have developed a draft provincial regulation on the recognition of customary land rights.
The regulation builds on the momentum of the Indonesian constitutional court decision in 2012, 35/PUU-X/2012, which recognised the rights of indigenous groups to lands within the Indonesian forest estate.
At present, there is uncertainty about how the sustainable development and customary land rights draft regulations would affect one other, once implemented.
Finally, in parallel to these initiatives, the administration of President Joko Widodo, which came into office in 2015, has been focusing on reducing poverty in regional areas of Indonesia, with a particular focus on the Indonesian portion of the island of New Guinea.
The main element of his policy has been to increase spending on infrastructure development as well as driving agricultural development. Previously remote and inaccessible areas of Papua are now finally getting access to roads and electricity, increasing their access to markets and other opportunities.
Can these three policy initiatives — for conservation, development and the recognition of indigenous land rights — be balanced in a way that benefits both indigenous Papuans and the environment?
Balanced solution From our research in West Papua, undertaken through various initiatives since 2013, we highlight several challenges to finding a balanced solution:
A systematic lack of spatial and socio-economic data on West Papuans, in particular their land ownership systems;
Limited markets and low prices for commodities or crops produced by Papuans coupled with missing downstream industries that could add value to these products; and
Spatial planning and land allocation processes that do not fully consider the rights and distribution of benefits to indigenous communities.
These challenges are all evident in the district of Fakfak, located in the central-western part of the province (Figure 1).
Fakfak District faces the Maluku Islands and historically, has long been integrated into the spice trade, especially for its local variety of nutmeg. Nutmeg and mace have been historically used worldwide for culinary purposes and can be processed further to produce essential oil and oleoresin.
Although Indonesia has been the center of nutmeg production for over a thousand years, the full potential of the nutmeg market remains untapped. One of the main undervalued nutmeg varieties is Papuan nutmeg (Myristica argentea Warb) or locally known as Pala Tomandin.
Papuan nutmeg is commercially grown in Fakfak and Kaimana districts in West Papua, with most of the production concentrated in Fakfak district. Nutmeg is cultivated in wild and semi-wild forests by indigenous farmers, in lands owned and managed under customary laws.
Diversified livelihoods Despite being registered as a geographical indication in 2014 as Pala Tomandin, the demand and price for Papuan nutmeg remains low. Consequently, nutmeg farmers often have diversified livelihoods such as fishing and seaweed cultivation or farming other crops.
Deforestation has remained relatively limited in Fakfak District, although the period of 2010 to 2016 saw a spike in clearing related to forestry concessions and the allocation of an oil palm concession, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Landcover change in Fakfak District from 1990 to 2016, showing the large area of secondary forest in forest concessions, created by logging operations. Map: Mongabay
Concessions, where logging companies not owned by local communities extract timber, remain the main driver of deforestation, which is a trend that has been increasing. Forest degradation, which is the conversion of primary forests to secondary forest, has primarily been driven by forestry concessions and spiked dramatically during the period of 2000 to 2010.
The rate of forest degradation declined significantly after this period, with the majority of degradation now occurring outside of forestry concessions. Currently, indigenous land owners receive compensation payments for timber harvested by the concessionaires, although the amount and distribution of benefits may vary.
From our case studies in Fakfak District, local people have described localised processes of demographic expansion and increasing financial pressures, such as the costs of paying for secondary and tertiary education for their children, as the causes of this expansion into primary forest areas.
The case of Fakfak district reveals the complexity of solving the intertwined challenges of poverty, indigenous land rights and conservation. Recognising indigenous land rights should be prioritized, to achieve both social justice and environmental conservation.
In the Amazon region, for example, formal recognition of indigenous territories inhibits deforestation just as much as conservation areas do. The recognition of land rights requires maps that delineate the boundaries of indigenous territories.
Social taboos There are social taboos, however, in delineating these boundaries as historically boundaries between different tribes and clans were established through wars and conflict. Without proper and legitimate mediation processes in place, mapping customary boundaries has the potential to reignite these conflicts.
In the absence of conflict mediation mechanisms and institutions, there are other methods available for delineating indigenous land ownership. INOBU, together with AKAPE, a Fakfak based NGO, has trialed mapping lands based on land use instead of ownership rights, particularly focused on nutmeg forest gardens in Fakfak district.
Thus far, we have mapped 263 farmers with a total area of 792 hectares in 20 villages. These maps provide indicative maps of customary use of forest areas, which will later serve as the basis for discussion on ownership rights between clans and tribes, and with the government.
Recognising the land rights will not be sufficient to solve the problem of deforestation and forest degradation, although it will help. Improving the value and markets for locally important forest commodities is crucial.
In Fakfak, we have been working on improving the markets and value of Papuan nutmeg while strengthening alternative livelihoods in order to alleviate the economic pressures on indigenous Papuan households.
We have been engaging with nutmeg exporters to ensure that the product meets the standards required by international markets. We have also been working with an Indonesian cosmetics company to help develop local industries for processed nutmeg products.
All these interventions, in turn, should be counterbalanced by strengthening customary institutions for sustainably managing forest resources. Finally, a district level, multi-stakeholder platform will guide the sustainable production of nutmeg in Fakfak district.
Broader application The lessons from Fakfak district can be applied more broadly to the province of West Papua. We propose that the recognition of the land and resource rights of indigenous Papuans should be the immediate priority of the provincial government, donors and conservation and development organisations.
Conservation should be viewed through the prism of strengthening customary systems and institutions, including village (kampung) administrations, for managing the environment rather than the expansion of protected areas.
The recognition of indigenous land and resource rights should not, however, extinguish their rights to develop in accordance with their own aspirations. Rather, indigenous groups should be supported through interventions that help them to develop profitable and sustainable industries, as well as support for accessing health and education.
An essential part of this should be developing economic alternatives for indigenous people that increase the value of standing, well-managed forests. Strict conservation, where necessary, should be supported through adequate financial and other incentives, with the benefits distributed equitably.
Prior to establishing or expanding conservation areas, governments should also assess the potential effects on indigenous peoples, including how it will contribute to, or impede, poverty reduction targets and the likelihood of future conflicts.
The Jokowi administration’s proposed investments in roads and electrification could help improve the economic viability of new community-based enterprises in West Papua if designed and implemented with the participation of local stakeholders, especially indigenous communities.
Participatory planning Without effective participatory planning, investments like these can lead to a natural resource-grabbing free-for-all.
The goals of both social justice and conservation are best served by recognition of land rights plus the development of economic alternatives for forest communities that enhance their livelihoods by increasing the value of their forests.
First and foremost, West Papuan’s indigenous peoples need to have a prominent seat at the table as the future of the province is planned.
*West Papua generally refers to all of the western half of Papua New Guinea island administered by Indonesia. West Papua, as referred to in this article, also applies to the smaller western province of the island as opposed to the larger Papua province. This article article is republished from Mongabay – “News and inspiration from nature’s frontline”. Bernadinus Steni is secretary of the Institut Inovasi Bumi and Daniel Nepstad is the executive director of Earth Innovation Institute.
Notes: 1. As part of the draft regulation for a Sustainable Development Province (Ranperdasus Provinsi Pembangunan Berkelanjutan), the government has established the following targets: 1. Local governments and stakeholders ensure that the use of clean, renewable energy reaches 50 percent with the period of 20 years from the enactment of this local regulation; 2. Local governments commit to reduce the rate of deforestation by 80 percent of the average rate of deforestation and degradation in 2009; 3. With a minimum period of 20 years from the enactment of this special autonomy regulation, as much as 50 percent of forests will be managed sustainably; 4. Local governments are obliged to protect a minimum of 80 percent of important habitats and 50 percent of every type of ecosystem; and for coastal and marine areas: Local governments are obliged to preserve a minimum of 30 percent of coastal areas and waters as Water Conservation Areas that include a minimum of 20 percent of the area as No Take Zones within a specific period considering ecological attributes.
2. Inovasi Bumi (INOBU) and Earth Innovation Institute, supported by the Norad-financed Forest, Farms and Finance Initiative, supported the drafting and initial consultations for the draft special autonomy regulation on the recognition of indigenous peoples (Ranperdasus Pengakuan Masyarakat Hukum Adat Papua di Provinsi Papua Barat). The regulation is the first step towards recognizing the land rights of indigenous peoples, as the existence of customary groups must be acknowledged first.
Acknowledgement: John Watts (INOBU, EII), Silvia Irawan (INOBU, EII) and Triyoga Widiastomo (INOBU) contributed to this Commentary; funding was provided by NORAD and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
Sacked as ABC head … Michelle Guthrie, “wrong choice from the start”. Image: PMC
ANALYSIS:By Peter Manning
Michelle Guthrie has been badly treated – not by being sacked, but by being hired in the first place. As a former head of ABC TV News and Current Affairs, I met Guthrie several times at functions in the ABC, and once at a social dinner party.
We discussed the state of ABC News and other editorial matters. She was well aware she was on a steep learning curve.
Dubbed early in the gossip mill as Rupert Murdoch’s and Malcolm Turnbull’s candidate for the job, I found her intentions good and her background at Google a major plus for leading the ABC in a digital era.
If there were worries, they were two: her lack of political smarts in the complicated and potentially volcanic relationship with the federal government; and her lack of experience in journalism, radio or television production, and the myriad other forms of content creation that ABC employees specialise in.
If she was Malcolm Turnbull’s preferred candidate…it hasn’t helped her in the Budget…Her failure to hold the line on ABC funding will not go down well.
Job cuts followed.
It is one of the top KPI’s for a managing director of the ABC: hold and build the budget.
‘Give her a go’ I think it’s true to say that most ABC staff hoped this was a minor blip and would be corrected in coming years. There was a determination to embrace the old Aussie “give her a go” mindset, and staff were willing to listen to what Guthrie proposed as her signature policies.
But what they heard in a series of staff meetings was nothing new: that the new digital era required changes in demographics, skills and programming; that the organisation needed to be downsized; that new executive reporting lines would be created and simplified; and that the ABC had to ignore its very young and very old rusted-on viewers and concentrate on the 15-30 and 30-50 year-olds, who had left it in droves.
They had heard all this from the previous managing director, Mark Scott, for many years. In fact, the drive to enter the digital world had begun under the leadership of Brian Johns in the early 1990s. He appointed me to head up a multimedia unit in 1994. The task: put the ABC on the internet.
Quickly, the ABC’s new home site – www.abc.net.au – became the top media site in Australia and remains one of the top sites today. But it was Scott who made digitisation his defining contribution.
For all the talk of “content”, it became clear that comparisons between Guthrie and Scott inside the ABC found her wanting. Scott, the former editorial director of Fairfax’s newspaper and magazine division, might have lacked radio and television skills, but he knew a good story when he heard one. He made a good fist of claiming the title of editor-in-chief.
Guthrie, a lawyer by trade, spoke about content and platforms, but was all at sea about how to bring these two concepts together. It was a major hole in her armoury. (Even in News Limited, many admire Rupert Murdoch’s intimate knowledge of the trade of journalism. It runs in the family. It used to be the same with the Packer empire at Channel Nine until Jamie Packer fell in love with casinos and gambling as sources of wealth. The Fairfax barons also enjoyed newspaper production.)
Very soon Guthrie lost the staff she was leading. In a time of constant change, morale fell and the honeymoon ended. The rolling series of federal Budget cuts under the Abbott and then Turnbull governments ensured series after series of expensive payouts to highly-skilled programme-makers who were supposedly there to produce the “content” for the new platforms Guthrie envisaged.
Plea for identities Many meetings were called to save various sections of the ABC and keep their identities. I attended one, a group of former general managers of ABC Radio National appealing to chairman Justin Milne and Guthrie to not incorporate the station and its staff into various “content streams”, thereby ensuring the end of what was called (the old) “appointment radio”.
The meeting was run by Milne, politely listening to each person and then assuring them it would all be alright. Guthrie was left to comment at the end:
Changes will need to go through me. Trust me, I’m a fan of RN.
The changes proceeded apace.
The casualisation of the new working arrangements has now left many staff not just demoralised but angry. Working crews have left on big packages only to return as freelancers on insecure tenure.
The anger has manifested itself in the “Proud to be Public” campaign by the formerly dominant union at the ABC, the Community and Public Sector Union. This group is more militant than the old Friends of the ABC lobby group, which is full of Liberal voters who care passionately about cuts to the ABC.
And finally, the anger of staff is shown in another new group, Alumni Ltd. – former ABC staff willing to join the struggle to save the ABC from Liberals who want to destroy it.
Wrong timing In my view, Guthrie came at the wrong moment to be the “change agent” for the ABC. Mark Scott had already been that figure, and had all the necessary qualities to connect with staff and carry them through the digital revolution.
Guthrie’s performances in Canberra (especially before Senate Estimates) were too amateur and insecure. Her own credibility as a content-maker was not up to scratch in a highly critical creative environment like the ABC.
Finally, her seeming inability to bring her senior managers and staff with her proved crucial – especially in an environment where a hostile government half-captured by the ideological right, not to mention News Limited, was snapping at her heels on a constant basis.
The choice of Guthrie was wrong from the start. It did no service to her, nor to the ABC. The then board did her no service in throwing her in the deep end of the ABC at a time of great change.
Dr Peter Manning is adjunct professor of journalism, University of Technology Sydney. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.
Lombrum naval base on Manus Island … a Google’s-eye view.
COMMENT:By Scott Waide
The global trade war between China and Western powers has reached new heights in the Pacific, and in particular in Papua New Guinea. As the government of Peter O’Neill courts China on the one side of the bargaining table, receiving, aid and other benefits, PNG’s traditional military partner, Australia, is growing anxious.
Australian media has reported that their government is planning to establish a military base on Manus Island to counter the growing Chinese influence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
The PNG government has been largely silent since Australia’s announcement.
Last night, when I contacted the Defence Minister, Solan Mirisim, he said the Papua New Guinea has been in negotiations with Australia for “a military base and a training facility on Manus”.
The plans by Australian has brought about concerns.
A former PNG Defence Force Commander, Major-General Jerry Singirok, says any decision by the Australians to place troops in Papua New Guinea must have wide consultation as well as debate in Parliament.
So far there has been none.
Retired Major-General Jerry Singirok … “threat of being smothered or over run by a behemoth of an economic and military power are real.” Image: My Land, My Country
Sovereign nation “Australia must be mindful that Papua New Guinea is a sovereign nation. There has to be wide public consultation as well as debate in parliament because this is a strategic decision.
“Australia has neglected this region for so long. This issue has to be approached with diplomacy.”
Australia’s choice of Manus is of strategic military importance. The maritime corridor between Guam to the north and Manus to the south was used by the Japanese in World War Two to reach the Pacific.
A possible Australian presence in Manus means they get to police the northern region. The move places Papua New Guinea in the centre of a global power struggle between the US and its allies and China.
For Papua New Guinea, things are a bit complicated. How does the government call China a threat and receive aid and development loans? And how does it support Australia’s military ambitions and still view China as a friend.
Another Former PNGDF Commander, feels Australia has to find a middle ground to deal with the trade war instead of placing military personnel in Papua New Guinea.
“China is not a threat,” says retired Commodore Peter Ilau, who also served as ambassador to Indonesia.
“We have to learn to work with China. We cannot respond with a show of military force,” he says.
Both former commanders agree that the threat of being smothered or over run by a behemoth of an economic and military power are real.
China’s economic influence in Papua New Guinea extends to nearly all sectors.
In the 13-year period between 2005 and 2018, China has spent close to 12 billion kina in investments and aid in Papua New Guinea. That is 3 billion kina short of Papua New Guinea’s annual budget of 15 billion.
Chinese money has been spent of monumental projects like buildings, transport infrastructure and energy projects in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
But what concerns many in Papua New Guinea is debt to China driven by loans and obligations and the possible take over of state assets by a foreign power.
Lombrum naval base on Manus Island following World War Two in 1949. Image: Australian War Memorial