PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

Covering Australia’s near northern neighbours can sometimes resemble a game of chess. There are many players: ASIS, ASIO, the Federal Police and, of course, private companies -- mostly Australian-based, including miners, security firms and Australian government-funded NGOs.

Throw into the mix China and its business interests, the US trying to counter them, the Indonesians trying to stake a claim. And then there is the unpredictable and sometimes uppity (from a DFAT perspective) local governments in these so-called democracies, Australia considers them.