Asia St: The Paradox of Australia-PNG Relations

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The Paradox of Australia-PNG Relations

March 25, 2021

Picture of the Papua New Guinea high commission in Canberra, Australia (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

In the wake of a spike in Covid-19 cases in Papua New Guinea in March, BGA Senior Adviser Ian Kemish wrote a recent commentary reflecting on what he equated to “a dam” that “has been breached” what it says about Australia’s relations with PNG.

In the piece published in The Conversation, Kemish, one of the world’s top experts on PNG who grew up there and served several times for the Australian government in Port Moresby, outlined what he termed as the “paradox” of Australia-PNG relations, where despite the fact that many Australians might have been caught off guard by the spike in Covid cases in its northern neighbor, there are some deep connections between the two countries, including through the around 20,000 Australians who call PNG home and engage as teachers, miners, diplomats, aid workers and government advisers along with some companies engaging there as well.

As Kemish points out, the spike in Covid-19 cases has made this clear in ways that relate to Australia’s own self-interest, as evidenced by concerns about the disease spreading across into parts of Australia. “Our neighbor’s stability and prosperity is in our interests,” Kemish writes. “Surely, there can be no better example of this than the current crisis: what is good for PNG is also good for Australia.” The ties between the two countries is a theme of several other recent commentaries Kemish has written as well, including on the death of Grand Chief Michael Somare.

You can read Kemish’s full post here. As events in PNG and the wider Indo-Pacific region continue to play out, Kemish, who had a quarter-century of service to the Australian government and now provides advice at BGA on several key countries including Australia, Timor-Leste, Fiji, will continue to weigh in on developments as they relate to our clients.