Christian Kerr writes:

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson is expected
to announce a new Australian deployment in Afghanistan today – but will our troops soon be needed closer to home?

Continued instability in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea –
the hub of the nation’s resources industry – has sparked talk of
a full scale, Bougainville-style succession movement.

The Small Arms Survey reported last year:

Demand for
military-style assault weapons in the Southern
Highlands remains high, with buyer paying
prices well above global market value… Gun running from other parts of PNG to
the Southern Highlands is financed and facilitated by politicians and civil servants up to
the highest levels of the educated elite. Many, perhaps most, illicit
high-powered firearms in the Southern
Highlands were deployed by political
candidates, sitting MPs, and their supporters to impress and intimidate both
rivals and voters.

Failure to diversify the economy,
institutional decline in political life, the military and police, spiralling
organised crime and an HIV/AIDS epidemic at what experts call the “accelerated
phase of development” already threaten our nearest neighbour. New Guinea gets described as a failed state.

Its problems are deep-seated, cultural and
institutional. Australian military intervention would only be a short term fix
– but it may still be needed, and soon.

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Peter Fray
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