Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 16:12 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 16:12 | SYDNEY

The Prime Minister in Paradise


Jenny Hayward-Jones


12 March 2008 15:29

After all the flag waving, billboards, Broncos jerseys and babies named Kevin Rudd, can the Prime Minister live up to the expectations he created during his travels to PNG and Solomon Islands last week? The abundance of media releases, speeches, and joint press conferences from the visit on the Prime Minister’s website suggests Australia’s relations with Melanesia are being dealt with seriously by Rudd. 

The Prime Minister was treated like a rock star in Port Moresby and Goroka, creating an image (or illusion) of a leader who can make a difference to the lives of ordinary people in PNG. But this is not the first time an Australian Prime Minister has been hailed as a hero in Melanesia.  I drove in the motorcade from Henderson airfield to the centre of Honiara that took John Howard past thousands of Solomon Islands schoolchildren enthusiastically waving Australian flags and holding posters thanking Australia for saving their country in 2003. 

RAMSI was a dramatic intervention undertaken at the invitation of the Solomon Islands government and had immediate results in restoring law and order. But as Australia has discovered, the task of building a nation and creating the prosperity that will ward against future conflict is much more difficult than arresting criminals and collecting weapons. Rudd’s Port Moresby Declaration proposes Pacific Partnerships for Development that will achieve better development outcomes for the region. He has promised results, but his government will need to work hard to achieve them. As John Howard can attest, even millions of tax-payer dollars does not help to prolong Australian flag-waving in Melanesia.