From Paul Oates
The recent riots and focus on Asians in PNG have unfortunately diverted attention away from the AusAID debate. One could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the AusAID camp.
The debate over the cost of employing consultants to work for AusAID in PNG is unfortunately just a 'red herring'. Sure it costs a lot to maintain overseas consultants and their families in reasonably safe and secure conditions in a country where I never used to even consider locking my doors. No one suggests that consultants and their family members should not be protected and housed in a reasonable standard. If all that costs a lot in PNG, that's understandable.
The essence of the problem is not whether a consultant gets paid $150,000 a year or that their conditions of employment are very expensive to maintain. The issue must surely be whether the AusAID budget of hundreds of millions of dollars are achieving a desired objective or in fact, anything at all aside from the employment of a few consultants and of course, the AusAID team.
Where are the long term, planned and ongoing programs that will lift PNG's public health, education, law and order and any one of a number of essential public services?
When will there be some publically expressed benchmarks that must be met and therefore used to evaluate the pre stated and agreed objectives of both the PNG and the Australian governments?
What level of auditing is being applied to hold those deciding where the millions are spent, accountable for the use of Australian taxpayer's monies?
Who is directly responsible and accountable for these programs both in Australia and PNG? Do these people have preset and signed, personal work agreements that must be met in order to continue to be employed?
What detailed studies and evaluations have been undertaken that determine educated PNG nationals aren't available to be considered for AusAID contracts?
Fact finding tours and conferences are a complete waste of time and resources. Everyone knows what the problems are. Clearly its a case where no one seems to have the 'guts, gumption and get up and go' to be able to get their head around any long term, lasting solutions.
If private business were to operate along AusAID's lines, they would very quickly go out of business. How can AusAID therefore turn to private business and say that a partnership will turn the AusAID program around? Surely this is just a 'smoke and mirrors' campaign to divert attention away from a clear lack of achievement? We all know that a partnership of government and business is a current and common policy expressed by State and Federal governments in Australia as the way to go. But everyone knows that's just a policy of convenience at the time. Future non achievements of any stated plans and objectives can always be explained away when they occur and tax money used to plug the inevitable funding gap. At least Australia has universal education, health and welfare programs and a recognized and effective law enforcement regime.
So why should it not be said that AusAID seems to be 'clutching at straws'? and ... everyone knows what happens to a house built of straw.