Significant economic growth has been recorded in Papua New Guinea in recent years, and the LNG project currently under construction is unprecedented in scale. The question is whether our closest neighbour can translate this opportunity into real and sustained development. Health, education and transport infrastructure need stronger support from PNG’s own government, which has not done enough in recent decades to match the efforts of foreign donors and the churches. Meanwhile, PNG’s institutions have been put to the test amidst political turmoil in the lead-up to what will be historic elections this year. Ian Kemish, Australian High Commissioner in Port Moresby, believes that Australia’s focus should be on helping PNG unlock its own potential. He argues that as a close supporter of PNG, Australia should remain closely engaged at all levels through this challenging political period, and not hesitate to express its views clearly in response to developments of concern. He argues that in order to be effective, our approach should be to speak with respect, acknowledging PNG’s sovereignty and, for the main, communicate in private.
Ian Kemish was raised in Papua New Guinea, undertaking all of his primary education in Lae, Rabaul and Port Moresby during the 1960s and early 1970s. His 24year foreign service career has also included several postings in Asia and Europe. He was Head of the Australian Consular Service from 2000 to 2004, and during that period was awarded membership of the Order of Australia for his role in managing the Government’s response to the 2002 Bali bombings. In Canberra he has also served as Head of the South-East Asia Division and as Head of the International Division in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Mr Kemish was Australian Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany from 2006 to 2009.