A delegation of six Australians representing the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the student group PNG Solidarity Action visited Port Moresby this week.
The delegation was made up of:
- Bill Mansfield, Assistant Secretary, ACTU
- Peter Breukers, Maritime Union of Australia
- Chris Chevalier, APHEDA
- Karen Iles, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
- Sandra White, Independent Education Union
- Jesse Wynhausen, PNG Solidarity Action
The objective of the delegation was to discuss union developments in Australia and PNG, gain a better understanding of social and economic issues and build stronger friendships and better understanding between the workers in the two countries.
The delegation met with John Paska of the PNG-TUC, members of the TUC Executive, the Teachers and Public Employees Unions, the Nurses Association, Caritas and the Catholic Bishops Conference, student leaders at the University of PNG and their Vice-Chancellor, the Ombudsmen’s Office, Transparency International, senior women’s groups, and the national AIDS council.
Commenting on the visit, the ACTU Assistant Secretary, Bill Mansfield said:
“The delegation was received with good will, frankness and a generous allocation of time from all those we met with. Our thanks go out to all the groups who spent time with us.”
“We hope that our visit will be the start of a new period of close consultation and friendship between Australian workers and students and their counterparts in PNG.”
“Globalisation and structural Adjustment Policies are affecting both our countries and bring new problems for jobs, economic development and social programmes. We need to share our experience in this area so as to overcome the negative effects.”
In the discussions over the last few days, the delegation observed:
“Corruption at high levels was a constant source of concern. Corruption is a cancer which must be stopped or the people will suffer the consequences.”
“Health and education standards for ordinary workers are seen as a major concern.”
“Trade unions are under a great deal of pressure and it would be desirable if there was greater unity at the national level.”
“The shooting deaths at the university of PNG were a great tragedy. We trust that the Commission of Inquiry outcome, currently in the hands of the Prime Minister, will not attempt to sweep all the facts under the carpet. The report should be released as soon as possible.”
“Many comments were made expressing concern of the treatment of the Australian refugees who have been transported to Manus Island. Local values and customs including the wish of the PNG people to treat them as guests have been ignored. Concern was also expressed about the high risk of malaria and the conditions which exist in the camp. Most people believed that the refugees should have been taken in by Australia.”
“We have been grateful for the opportunity to talk with a number of PNG citizens, unions, students and community leaders. We were highly impressed with their willingness to talk frankly and in great depth about the challenges facing PNG. We have started the process of building new friendships between the people of Australia and PNG. In the next few years we will seek to make that friendship deeper and stronger.”
For further information contact Bill Mansfield on (03) 9664.7334