Welcome to al-Qa’eda in Papua New Guinea. Our very own terrorist network right on our doorstep, funded by the Aussie taxpayer. Kevin Rudd’s PNG boat people deal is potentially the most reckless foreign policy ever conceived of by an Australian government. As usual, it bears all the hallmarks of the dangerous Rudd modus operandi — hastily conceived for base political reasons with no serious analysis or regard to unintended long-term consequences.
Of course, I may be being overly pessimistic. After all, there’s every chance the boats will stop coming, the Manus Island centre will successfully process its four or five hundred refugees, re-settle a few of them in PNG and send the rest happily back to where they came from or elsewhere on the planet, the tents will be dismantled and all will be sweet with the world. Or maybe not.
Because of the lack of detail, and the numerous contradictions that have already appeared between what Rudd initially claimed and what Peter O’Neill subsequently denied, the ramifications of this policy are open to speculation. How many genuine refugees are envisaged being settled in Papua? Where? How long will economic refugees be permitted to remain, and on what terms? What if nobody wants them and they refuse to move? How long are they Australia’s financial burden? Forever? Are the numbers ‘uncapped’ as Rudd initially claimed? The answers are vague and the goalposts keep moving.
But some things we do know: Port Moresby is one of the most dangerous cities on the planet; not quite Mogadishu but up there with Kabul and other such choice locations. According to photographer Stephen Dupont, who chronicled the city in his book Raskols: ‘With a corrupt government and police force, every day in Port Moresby is survival of the fittest. Dense urban settlements and a general lack of law and order have led to intertribal warfare and a seemingly endless stream of kidnappings, gang rape, carjackings and vicious murders. That’s all in addition to soaring HIV rates and massive unemployment.’ If there were such a thing as the Fourth World, Port Morseby would be in it.
PNG already has over 13,000 refugees living in squalor and poverty in relocation camps, who’ve fled oppression at the hands of neighbouring Indonesia across the border in West Papua. They’ve been stranded for decades, into their second and third generations, with no hope of integration into Papua’s largely tribal societies. Indonesia brutally suppresses any move towards West Papuan independence, flooding the province with Javanese and — according to some estimates — by butchering nearly half a million indigenous Papuans.
To the north of PNG lies the world’s most populous Muslim nation. To the south lies us; one of the world’s most prosperous, comfortable, wealthy, western nations, which, as it happens, not only used to be PNG’s colonial master but is now, arguably, using the joint as a human rubbish tip. A recent 7.30 report into Manus Island showed the appalling environmental degradation and pollution that has already blighted this once pristine island courtesy of our detention centre. The allegory was apt. Manus will now be the dumping ground for Australia’s toxic political waste.
The resentment and antagonism that an ever-increasing influx of boat people into PNG, the Solomons and Vanuatu will fuel among the locals has already led to Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola lambasting Australia and Peter O’Neill: ‘For an Australian problem, you have proposed a Melanesian solution that threatens to destabilise the already delicate social and economic balances in our societies. We are deeply troubled by the consequent threat to the stability of these countries. This was done to solve a domestic political problem — and for short-term political gain — without proper consideration of the long-term consequences.’ The fear is that before long, impoverished Melanesians will see asylum seekers living a better life than their own.
PNG itself is a proud, poorly governed, predominantly Christian society with only one mosque. Could there be a more enticing location for radicalised Islam to set up shop? Courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.
The combination of western-sponsored welfare payments and resentful, disenfranchised communities has proven a magnet for radical Islam across Europe, with fanatical preachers easily finding converts among the criminal gangs who command the citadels of welfare and poverty in the estates outside large cities. Well versed in the ways of the West, radical preachers are more than happy to avail themselves of our generous welfare provisions whilst entreating their followers to do us harm. Equally, lawlessness, weak government and tribal conflict is impossible for radical Islam to resist, such as we have seen throughout north Africa and the Middle East. What makes PNG so insidious is that it is — potentially — an unusual cocktail of much of the above. Particularly if Rudd’s plan, like so many of his previous ones, is badly implemented once it has served its electoral purposes.
The PNG deal offers any al-Qa’eda or other anti-western organisations the opportunity to infiltrate Papua New Guinea at the Australian taxpayer’s expense, but without Australian supervision. This is a recipe for disaster. As has been seen in Nauru, gangs of male asylum seekers will eagerly riot and cause destruction if they believe it is to their advantage. Rape and torture of inmates by other inmates allegedly occurred on Manus.
Fast forward a year or two. Or five. As refugees from Syria, Iran (even Egypt?) swell, there could soon be ghettos, camps or communities of tens of thousands of desperate Arab or North African immigrants living in and around the squalor of Port Moresby, paid for (but not under the legal supervision of) Australia. Conflict with the locals is inevitable, as impoverished Papuans — already suspicious and distrustful of both Muslims and the few immigrants that there are in the country — react to the fact that Australia is paying good money to dump these ‘undesirables’ into their midst.
Yet to many refugees, PNG will be a picnic. No need to work (we’ll be providing their livelihood), no genuine detention and still only a short boat ride from Australia should they feel so inclined to give it another crack.
Get ready for any number of horror stories about drug trafficking, arms racketeering, turf wars, rape, riots and the rest of it, for it is unlikely that many of these individuals — drawn from the worst places of North Africa and the Middle East — will take up basket-weaving or spear-fishing in order to integrate comfortably into Papuan village life. The opportunity for al-Qa’eda to exploit the inevitable tensions for its own purposes are manifold.
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