Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 01:38 | SYDNEY
Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 01:38 | SYDNEY

PNG has a 'new chum' called Kevin


Jenny Hayward-Jones


5 March 2008 16:23

The Australian Prime Minister may not believe Australian polls about his style credentials, but his stars appear to be on the rise in PNG ahead of his 6 March visit. Hopes are high in Port Moresby for a transformation of bilateral relations, with the PNG Post Courier referring to Kevin Rudd as the 'new chum' Prime Minister. Although Rudd’s visit to PNG may not have the same gravitas in the eyes of foreign policy watchers of his trip to the US, China, UK, Brussels and Bucharest at the end of the month, the relationship with PNG is nevertheless a significant one for Australia. 

A country on our doorstep of over 6 million people, with estimated GDP growth of over 5 per cent in 2007 and undergoing a resources boom has to be treated as a serious partner, and not only because Australia is PNG’s largest aid donor. It’s hard to imagine more than 1000 school children welcoming an Australian Prime Minister in Washington or London or indeed in Canberra, as is planned for the welcome for Rudd in Port Moresby and Goroka. There remains great sympathy for Australia across PNG despite the ructions of the past few years. Rudd now has a big opportunity to demonstrate that Australia’s connections with PNG have more substance than a traditional donor-client relationship. But the challenges are extensive; this visit and the follow-up needs as much intellectual engagement from the Government as the PM's later trip to the US, China and Europe.