The Guardian • Issue #2097


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2097

The government of Papua New Guinea continues to reject Australia’s attempt to force it to abandon its relations with China. Twenty years ago, the then PNG government of Michael Somare stood up against pressure from the Howard government to give legal immunity to more than 300 Australian police and other officials to be sent to PNG as part of a so-called Enhanced Cooperation Program.

Australia tied the approval of an $800 million aid package to the granting of immunity from criminal prosecution to the Australian personnel.

A report in PNG newspaper The National at the time carried comments from PNG officials who were giving vent to the sense of outrage in the country: “We have taken offence to the attitude of the Australian officials. Australia insists on its jurisdiction over criminal immunity for its personnel while Waigani (the PNG government) maintains that PNG’s jurisdiction should be applied because PNG is not in a crisis situation, or a failed or weak state.”

The PNG government was clearly on alert that its Australian counterpart viewed their country as another target for the sort of treatment handed out to the Solomon Islands the year before.

In that 2003 exercise in colonial arrogance, Operation Helpim Fren (Helping Friend), 2000 Australian troops and police were sent to the Solomons to “restore order” in what the Howard government had declared a “failed state.” In this Australia gave the first demonstration of its new, enhanced role as deputy sheriff for the US in the Pacific.

At the same time, Australia assumed the right to impose its commercial and strategic interests on the region. Australian officials coordinated a regime of outsourcing and privatisation, and saw to it that nearly all the goods and services purchased for the Solomons came from expensive Australian sources. Today the Albanese gang is trying to dictate PNG’s choice of trade and economic partner – to deny its right to take its own sovereign, independent path.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: is fossil fuel polluter Woodside with its planned Burrup Hub mega gas expansion in Western Australia that would be a climate and nature disaster. If it goes ahead, over its lifetime this project will emit more than six billion tonnes of climate-wrecking pollution, 13 times more pollution than Australia’s total annual emissions.

Woodside’s plans are reckless, partly because the facilities they currently run are spewing out more pollution than allowed under the government’s Safeguard Mechanism. The Australian Conservation Foundation’s analysis of the Safeguard Mechanism data has found that in the 2023 financial year, Woodside’s North-West Shelf Project had a pollution blowout of 168,773 tonnes CO2e, making this project the second-highest polluting facility in the country, releasing almost seven million tonnes of climate-heating pollution.

More than 10,000 Australians urged their super funds to hold Woodside’s board to account, and the superfunds acted. Because superfunds own supersized shares in big businesses like Woodside, they have a supersized say in how these companies act.

In the lead up to Woodside’s AGM, thousands upon thousands of members urged their super funds to take a stand against Woodside’s climate destruction and to vote against the chair of the company.

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