Canberra's "Stupid White Men" are the problem,
not the solution
by Peter Symon Troops and police from Australian and New Zealand and a sprinkling from several Pacific Island states have landed on Guadacanal, the principle island in the Solomons Islands. They are set to re-establish "law and order" Australian style. The economic, political and social problems that the people of the Solomon Islands and many other nations of the Pacific Ocean face will not be solved by the policies that the Australian Government intends to impose. These policies are not the solution, they are the problem. They are the failed policies that have created what are derogatively referred to as "failed states" by Western leaders and the media. Geoffrey Barker writing in the Australian Financial Review (23/7/03) summed it up: "For years Australia has used its regional dominance to push Pacific nations towards the nirvana of free-market economic reforms: tariff cuts, private sector promotion, reduced government spending, more rigorous public accountability and investment transparency". Dismal results Barker recognises the disastrous results. He writes: "The results have been dismal in big countries like Papua New Guinea and Fiji; they have been non- existent in smaller, poorer places like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Nauru." Instead of accepting and recognising this truth, the Howard Government intends to continue to foist these policies on the Pacific Island states by military might. This is the real agenda behind Howard's latest proposal to push for "pooled regional governance" of the Pacific Island nations. Howard has questioned whether these "countries should have been given independence". Having raised this question it is inevitable that arguments will appear in the media that they should never have been granted independence by the former colonial powers and should not continue to exist as independent sovereign states. Howard made it clear that acceptance of the Australian Government's plans will be a factor in determining future military intervention in other countries and allocation of overseas "aid". He is reported as saying ominously that "Every case is different and you can 't normally act unless you're asked, particularly as the countries aren't posing any particular immediate threat". The phrase "not normally act" implies that he would be prepared to act pre- emptively even without any invitation from the target country. The arc of instability Writing in the Financial Review, (23/7/03) Laura Tingle says, "The arc of instability is seen to extend from Indonesia to New Zealand, taking in problem spots such as East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji". In the eyes of the Australian Government, all of these countries are ripe for intervention and occupation by Australian military forces and administrators. Private sector priorities There are innumerable statements by Howard, Downer and other government representatives which prove that their principle objective is to recolonises and enforce economic rationalist priorities on all the Island states. In August 2002, Howard said that the Island states must have law and order and security for people if they are "going to attract foreign investment and if they don't attract foreign investment in a globalised economy their living standards so far from rising run the risk of sinking further". In August 1999, Alexander Downer told an audience at the Murdoch University that "good governance" meant, among other things, "support for sensible market-oriented economic policies." In May 1998, the parliamentary secretary to Alexander Downer, Kathy Sullivan MP, told an audience of businessmen in Cairns that the role of the private sector ". involves divesting governments of activities which can be better conducted by the private sector". She said, "Many of the activities which Australia funds in the infrastructure and education sectors [in its aid programs], also contribute to private sector development." Kathy Sullivan said that, "Reducing poverty and encouraging sustainable development are at the heart of all our overseas aid efforts". The exact opposite is the result of the policies being imposed. What did the people of Papua New Guinea gain from the BHP gold mine at Ok Tedi? Did their standard of living rise from the devastation of their timber resources by foreign logging companies? Did the people of Bougainville prosper from the Panguna Copper Mine owned by CRA (Rio Tinto)? Have the people of West Papua benefited from the huge mines operated by American investment at Westernport? In all cases the answer is a resounding "NO". Quite the opposite. It meant death and destruction, theft of lands, war, poisoning of rivers and the environment, and the exploitation of people and resources. Aid with strings For some time the Australian Government used aid programs to enforce its economic policies. While continuing to use "aid" as a weapon, it now intends to use military force and the physical takeover of government operations in the Island states as well. Military and police forces are already being trained for this purpose. At a press conference (22/7/03) Howard gave as an example of "aid" the "proposal that we trained police in Fiji for use in different parts of the region". This is nothing more than the preparation of a police force as mercenaries to be used to do Australia's dirty work "in different parts of the region". In addition to the military and police forces sent to the Solomons there are also "45 law and justice bureaucrats and 20 other bureaucrats to set up budget and economic systems". (The Age 23/7/03) The military, the police and the "justice" system of the Solomon Islands are to be controlled by Australian commanders and bureaucrats. The finances of the country's government are to be taken over by Australian managers. Recolonisation What is this if not colonialism? Their mission is to make the Solomons "secure" for foreign investors. We are told that these "failed states" might provide a haven for drug- runners, criminals and terrorists, that their governments are corrupt and they comprise an "arc of instability" to the north of Australia. The arguments used to justify intervention in the Solomons will be recycled when the time comes to occupy Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Nauru or any other states. The chairman of directors of Oil Search Ltd, Trevor Kennedy, writing in The Australian (22/7/03), complained that he had not received support for an oil pipeline project running from Papua New Guinea to Queensland. "Maybe this adventure in the Solomons will change things. Let's hope so because political and economic conditions in the Pacific continue to deteriorate.", Mr Kennedy wrote. In an attempt to frighten Australians into supporting his project he threatens: "What do you do if half a million of them turn up in their canoes on Cape York peninsula? A bit more preventive medicine is worth thinking about." Obviously Mr Kennedy hopes that Australian troops will soon arrive in Papua New Guinea and make things "secure" for Oil Search Ltd.