Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:25 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:25 | SYDNEY

Kokoda: A question of sovereignty


Jenny Hayward-Jones


18 February 2008 08:21

Three weeks before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is due to visit Papua New Guinea, his government is being tested on its attitude to the sovereignty of our nearest neighbour. Controversy over the proposed establishment of a copper mine by Australian mining company Frontier Resources on a section of the Kokoda Track has raised some difficult issues for Canberra. The Rudd Government will remember the media hysteria surrounding roadworks near Anzac Cove in 2005 and will be anxious to avoid being blamed by the Australian media for any potential damage to the revered Kokoda Track. 

There are multiple traps for a well-intentioned but perhaps unsuspecting Australian Government here.  Its foremost consideration should be respect for the sovereign right of Papua New Guinea to determine the development of its vast resources. It would be a shame if the PM’s first visit to PNG was dominated by tales of Australia preaching an anti-development message for the villages around the Kokoda Track, especially given the extent of Australian investment in the PNG resources sector. 

The former Government’s placement of the Kokoda Track on the List of Overseas Places of Historical Significance to Australia (LOPHSA) was accompanied by a statement that the list would 'not impact on another country’s sovereignty.' The current controversy offers an opportunity for the Rudd Government to do something its predecessor never managed – to make it clear to the Australian people that the future of overseas sites dear to our hearts is not in our hands.