Feb 21, 2014

The inconvenient truth about our PNG ‘solution’

The so-called "PNG solution" will never work, says Crikey's writer-at-large. Papua New Guinea is a troubled and violent state, and it will never truly accept refugees.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Seventy-five years ago, in the depths of World War II, the British sent out a secret weapon to help Australia in the fight against the Japanese, who were heading downwards to the island of New Guinea. His name was Tom Harrison, and he was an anthropologist, one of the dozens employed in secret ops during the Pacific War. Harrison was a crazy man, founder of a group called Mass Observation in the United Kingdom, which mobilised hundreds of people to take notes of one activity — the British pub, hospital waiting rooms — on a single day. The activity would eventually flow into a series of films that served as precursors for Big Brother.

In West Papua, Harrison’s job was to organise surveillance and tracking systems employing the local population. His more radical solution was to reintroduce head-hunting, which had been discontinued by the missionaries decades before — and then point head-hunters in the direction of the Japanese. It was said he had managed to start the process among tribes that had never practised it. After the war was over, it was not easily discontinued, if it ever has been …

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25 thoughts on “The inconvenient truth about our PNG ‘solution’

  1. klewso

    From outside, PNG looks more like a “No Man’s Land” – a half-baked experiment – where it’s survival of the fittest? And the other half bequeathed to Indonesia to do with as they like?

  2. Shane Bennett

    Didn’t Harrison go into Borneo?

  3. maxcelcat

    Well said. It makes me ill that both major parties are responsible for this mess. No one will make things better if it looks like they’re going to have to admit they made a mistake.

  4. Electric Lardyland

    Doing a little bit of research on the very limited number of reports on the resettlement of refugees in PNG, it seems that no refugees have been resettled; unless you count Manus Island detention centre as resettlement.

    This is from a recent report:

    [There are currently 1,300 detainees on Manus Island. PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato says officials have started processing refugee applications.

    But the country does not have a visa category for refugees and there’s been little public information about how, and where, they might be resettled.

    Mr Pato has told parliament the option of resettling refugees in a third country will also be explored.

    “So what the cabinet has decided recently is to appoint a group of eminent Papua New Guineans who will be assisted by relevant expertise from the UN, from the Australian Government, and other responsible stakeholders, to come up with relevant policy framework determining the question whether those asylum seekers will or will not be settled in PNG,” he said.]

    So it seems, despite past claims, that the PNG government are still unsure whether to accept any refugees at all.

  5. Dez Paul

    There you go again, Guy, telling the truth. So inconvenient. Australia is fast becoming a pariah in Asia and the tropical north. I forsee PNG throwing its lot in with China by 2020, all because a feckless, mandarin speaking?! Australian PM (followed by an idiot, reckless PM) failed to actually look ahead. PNG would rather be a vassal state of China, than Australia I imagine.

  6. Janet Maher

    I wholeheartedly disagree with on-shore detention. The reason is because on-shore detention is abused by lawyers who work pro-bono to overturn asylum cases through laws they themselves, as well as what refugee advocates lobbied for, who are more in line with far-left politics, such as encouraging boat journeys which is advocated by the socialist faction of The Greens. It is corrupt. It is based on the far-left socialist agenda for open borders. I don’t think that the traumatisation and drowning of children tagged along by others through people smuggling syndicates is acceptable. Several countries that are UN refugee convention signatories are bypassed, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan.

    I support genuine humanitarian refugee intake, such as from UN run refugee camps. Not asylum seekers arriving to Australian moorings without documentation. Though advocates claim 90% of boat people are genuine refugees. It’s disingenuous & biased as it depends upon the basis of which refugee status was granted. The UNHCR Handbook for asylum seekers specifies in Part B that if there’s no documentation, benefit of the doubt is a preferred option if the asylum claim seems credible. One part actually specifies it’s “frequently necessary to give the applicant the benefit of the doubt” because claimants can’t always prove their case.

  7. AR

    IF the detainees are deemed to be refugees under the UN Convention to which we are signatories, then we are OBLIGED to settle them, here, in the country to which they submitted themselves for assessment.
    The PNG idiocy is as perfect an example as could be satirised of whjy the last election was a choice between the evil of two lessers.

  8. Ken Lambert

    Janet Maher makes some good points.

    The “Rundle in the Jungle” solution is to wring hands and knash teeth when the detainees cut up a bit rough.

    Well the Iranians I saw on ABC TV tonight looked seriously half smart to me. Caps on backwards these boys were running an insouciance bound to raise the hackles of the average Abbott supporter and not a few blue collar punters (those who watch the ABC).

    The Abbott solution is working. The pipeline of corrupt Indonesian officials in league with the smugglers is choking if not plugged.

    These well connected $10000 self-select immigrants have got the message – try and you will lose your money and end up back in Jakarta or sweating in PNG.

    For those unlucky ones who got caught in Gillard’s Manus moment and Kevin07-13’s piece of shameless me-tooism all that can be said really is – tough titties; your predecessors had a great run and you missed out. Your best option is to go back to Indonesia and try the legal route.

  9. David Hand

    Here’s an inconvenient truth Guy.
    No one has entered the asylum seeker system since mid December. Now we read that they’re not entering Indonesia in very big numbers either. That’s two months now.

    Oops! Tony’s stopped the boats. Dang! Let’s call it a failure anyway!

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