PNG workers and struggle for their justice. A new beginning in the relationship between unionists in Papua New Guinea and unionists in Australia.
Can I first of all thank Captain Tom Ur and the PNG Defence Force for
allowing us to be here at the Officers Mess. We really appreciate it. Can I also
thank the CIS Pipe Band for the wonderful performance on our arrival.
can I give the biggest thanks to John Paska and the PNG unions for having us
here. Thank you for allowing us to be your brothers and sisters.
reelection of the Howard Government unions are having a tough time in Australia.
But no matter how difficult it is for us at the moment it does not come close to
the difficulties that you face each and every day as you try to organize PNG
workers and struggle for their justice.
The adversities that you face
and the difficulties that you encounter are for us unimaginable. You are truly
pioneers. You inspire us.
To be in this country to witness your
achievements and to have the experience of working with you is for us an
absolute privilege. We thank you for that as well.
The history of our two
movements goes back as long way. In 1965 Bob Hawke, a former President of ours
who when he left us went on and did one or two other things, came to Port
Moresby as the National Wage Case Advocate and spent three months here, in
effect, running a national wage case for Papua New Guinea.
there has been other contact. In recent times Rod Ellis, Sarah Fitzpatrick and
Mick Doleman representing the MUA, who are all here, have had extensive
experience in working with unions in PNG.
But it also has to be said that
in a larger sense in recent years the relationship between our two movements is
not what it should have been. The assistance that Australian unions have
provided is not what it could have been. And that is our fault not yours. It is
our fault as Australian unions.
And that is why we are here now, because
we want to be your brothers and sisters once more.
You have before you
the largest delegation of union leaders ever to visit PNG. Twelve unions are
represented here along with the ACTU, the South Pacific and Oceanic Council of
Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party. And I want to introduce the
delegation to you:
International Federation of Building and Wood Workers;
Attendants’ Association of Australia;
Labor Party; …
And finally we have one other member of the
delegation who comes from New Zealand, so let me apologize for that on his
behalf … Mike Ingpen in part works with Public Services International, but he
is here in his capacity as the Secretary of the South Pacific and Oceanic
Council of Trade Unions. And he is really the overseer of this entire delegation
for this is happening under the umbrella of SPOCTU and we would not be here but
The reason why these particular individuals are here is because
each of them represents and organization that wishes to enter into a
relationship with its PNG counterpart.
So over the next three days each
of these union partners: the Australian Nurses Federation and the PNG Nurses
Association; the Australian Finance Sector Union and the PNG Bank Officers
Association; and so on – each of these union partners will be developing
an agenda for cooperation. They will be assessing what the needs of each of the
PNG unions are and working out how the Australian unions can assist. In some
cases it will be reaffirming old relationships and in other cases it will be
creating new relationships.
Already, since Mike, Sarah and I came up in
here in August to do the ground work for this trip, John Allan from the
Transport Workers’ Union has come to PNG and the Transport Workers Union have
agreed to facilitate the amalgamation of the Air Nuigini unions. And this new
amalgamated union when it is formed will become a partner of the Transport
These agendas for cooperation will not be for six
months or a year, they will be forever. Because this about establishing enduring
relationships between unions in Papua New Guinea and Unions in
To that end, as a coordinated program of establishing
one-on-one relationships between unions in one country and unions in another
this is a world first.
So this delegation is not an end in itself. This
delegation … indeed this day marks a new beginning. It is a new beginning in
the relationship between unionists in Papua New Guinea and unionists in
Richard Marles, Assistant Secretary,
Australian Council of Trade Unions. PNG Defence Force Officers’ Mess,
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 7 February 2005.