Is Australia Aware and More Importantly, Does Australia Care?

One Member’s Media Watch

I have taken to watching the English language China T.V. service on SBS television. As it comes on at 5.00 a.m., it’s a matter of recording the half hour program and reviewing it at a more respectable time. One learns all sorts of interesting news which never ever get a mention on our commercial channels and, surprisingly are totally ignored by “your ABC” and the more responsible channels and the printed media e.g.:

(1) the visit, a couple of months ago, of Chinese Premier Li Kequiang to Egypt (with the Egyptian Foreign Minister gushing praise on “the meeting of two ancient civilizations “), Iraq and Iran with the signing of multi-billion dollar trade, defence and economic development deals with those countries . All in an area which has long been regarded as a Western sphere of influence.

(2) The recent visit of the Greek Prime Minister to Beijing and the sale of the Greek trading and ship-building port of Piraeus to a Chinese company. This being one of the busiest ports in Europe.

You are probably wondering what all this has to do in a magazine devoted to Papua New Guinea. What made me sit up and take notice was an article on the visit of a Papua New Guinea delegation led by Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill from the 5th to the 10th July!

The P.M. was given a red-carpet welcome by China’s Premier Li Kequiang in Tianamen Square with a 21-gun salute, an inspection of a People’s Liberation Army Honour Guard, a PLA band playing PNG’s National Anthem, with all of the panoply that China does so well. Then over to the Great Hall of the People for a greeting from President Xi Jinping before the two sides sat down for (quote) “in-depth exchanges of views on issues of shared interest, including the development of bilateral relations, and reached broad agreement “(unquote), according to the official Joint Press Release.

A Google Search under “Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill visit to China in July, 2016” will give you full details but, briefly, I will quote some of the important points:

(a) “China and PNG warmly celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties

(b) “Both countries will step up exchanges and co-operation between Government Departments—and strengthen mutual understanding and political trust “

(c) PNG “respects China’s principled position on the South China Sea issue“

(d) “enhance bilateral co-operation and co-ordination in the U.N., APEC, and the Pacific Islands Forums“

(e) “China will provide support and help to PNG for its hosting of the 2018 Economic Leaders meeting “.

More importantly, there were a number of specific mutual agreements:

(1) A China-PNG Civil Aviation Agreement

(2) A feasibility study for a China/PNG Free Trade Agreement

(3) A concessional loan for something called the Lae Tidal Basin West Side industrial development project.

(4) The reconstruction and upgrading to 4 lanes of a section of the Highlands Highway

(5) A credit loan for the PNG National Submarine Fibre Cable Network

What is of concern and what should be of concern to those of us in Australia who have a love of and an interest in PNG is that there has NOT BEEN A HINT, NOT A WHISPER of this important event in ANY of our print and electronic media!

I could be wrong, but the only PNG news I have recently seen have been an article on a women-only bus in Port Moresby, a couple of articles on the Port Moresby University riots and an ABC article on “raskol” gangs along the Highlands Highway – all articles which, to me at least, border on disparaging what is happening in that country.

I have written before, in the December 2015 issue of this magazine, of the utter lack of interest by the Australian media in what is really happening in PNG and now, with our Government’s seeming fixation as the U.S. appointed Deputy Sheriff to the far-away Middle East, I am seriously beginning to wonder whether we care or are aware of what is happening in a country we share a common border with and which should be of a major concern for us.

John B Quinn

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