Papua New Guinea:

Don Wormald writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: why is Papua New Guinea so unstable?“(Friday, item 9). Today’s Crikey attempts to examine why things are unstable in Papua New Guinea.

Perhaps it can be explained in the words of PNG’s first prime minister and one of the men behind the current crisis.

In a private conversation to a long-time Australian friend and PNG resident many, many years ago Sir Michael Somare observed Whitlam has done his country a disservice by insisting on giving PNG independence “one generation too early”. Sir Michael’s take was that PNG had needed that extra time to get more of its people through universities and colleges so they would have been more capable of handling self-government.  Even then he was worried about stability.

The friend he had that conversation with was a gentleman by the name of Robert Henry Maxwell Gibbes. Gibbes was a former WWII fighter ace, owner of a chain of hotels in PNG and founder of Gibbes Sepik Airways, which was the airline that opened up the remote highlands areas. Bobby also owned a coffee plantation in Mt Hagen and had known Somare since he was a teenager.

Bobby related this conversation to me on more than one occasion. If you trawl the Crikey archives you will find pieces I wrote about Bobby (and Nancy Bird Walton) some years ago when I was a regular contributor. Bobby died five years ago so the conversation is definitely hearsay.

The art of the protest:

Jackie French writes:  Re. “View from the Tent Embassy: reality v news reports, with added context” (Friday, item 2). There has been a major change in the way protest is viewed in the past 30 years. Once it was OK to be angry in public — not violent, but angry. Yelling abuse is an old Australian political tradition, sometimes accompanied by rotten tomatoes.

The  politicians of a generation ago, who spoke from the back of trucks to their electorate, knew how to deal with face-to-face confrontations, either by meeting a delegation or by yelling back as good as they got. Gillard and Abbott cut and ran.

A Jim Killen or Fred Daly would have stood their ground — and turned it into a heck of a good story afterwards.


A Crikey reader writes: Re. “Welcome to the bizarro parallel universe that is UK politics” (Friday, item 10). David Ritter’s impassioned explanation of the national significance of the defection to the Tories of Labour MP and “former web-campaign adviser to Blair” Luke Bozier is undermined a little by the fact that Bozier is not and never has been an MP. He is a junior Labour party member who never held a senior position under Tony Blair’s government and appears to have had very little if any contact with Blair.

Kim Lockwood writes: The UK is not wracked by economic woes. It is racked by them. Wrack is brown seaweed, wreck or wreckage, ruin or destruction.

The correct verb (racked) comes from the medieval torture of being stretched on the rack — which fits the UK situation nicely. Yeah righto, I’ll rack off now.