Go Pinis

Go Pinis

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aid workers earning more than Rudd

JOHN Dinsdale, a former clerk of a court in Melbourne, is being paid more than half a million dollars a year, tax-free, as Australia's law and justice adviser to Papua New Guinea, where crime and corruption keep rising as aid increases.

Peter Kelly, an engineer from Brisbane, is receiving $433,000 tax-free a year to supervise the maintenance of the 73km of paved roads, 1303 km of gravel roads and 400km of earth roads in the tropical tourist haven of Vanuatu.

Both are earning substantially more than Kevin Rudd, who is paid about $350,000 a year, on which the Prime Minister also pays tax.

Australia's aid budget has soared by 42 per cent since mid-2005. And the Rudd government is pushing to meet an election promise by doubling current aid spending to $8 billion a year, 0.5 per cent of the economy, in five years.

This, in turn, is pushing AusAID -- which employs 914 people directly, 187 based overseas -- to spend almost half of its budget on "technical assistance", twice the average in other industrialised countries' aid budgets.

Much of this is deployed through contractors such as Mr Dinsdale and Mr Kelly. The "implementing service provider" of the PNG Australia Law and Justice Partnership with which Mr Dinsdale works is Cardno, a global consulting firm that recently took over Australian firm ACIL.

Cardno is being paid $137 million to run the program, which employs about 60 advisers, over five years to mid-2014. Australia is giving PNG $414m overall this year.

AusAID is also diversifying beyond its Asia-Pacific focus to encompass Africa.

But although spreading the aid program geographically makes it easier to spend the $8bn, this provides poor use of taxpayers' money, says Jenny Hayward-Jones, director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program. Besides, she said, this thrust "is really motivated by Australia's desire to be elected to the UN Security Council".

Mr Dinsdale said that his contract prevented him talking to the media, but he did not believe his cost "would be out of the ordinary with anybody else".

Mr Kelly, who was previously the top roads adviser at AusAID, for which he worked directly for eight years, said: "I am not in a position to comment on those details."

He has to use his package, as does Mr Dinsdale, to pay for his housing and security overseas, airfares and other needs.

Paulinus Sikosana, AusAID's health adviser to PNG, is receiving $743,000 over two years. Originally from Zimbabwe, where he was health department head, he has worked in seven countries, and AusAID believes it is necessary to pay such amounts to persuade people with the needed skills to work in a place such as Port Moresby, recently listed by The Economist as the third-least liveable city in the world.

The objective of AusAID is "to assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest guided by the Millennium Development Goals".

The Australian National Audit Office's latest review of AusAID, two months ago, while positive overall, said that as the aid budget doubled, "AusAID faces considerable management challenges".

"AusAID staff are concerned about workloads and stress levels at many overseas posts and there is a shortfall of expertise in some areas," it said. The office recommends "improved external reporting to make aid program running costs more transparent".

The audit office says Australia has "a tendency to rely too much" on technical assistance, the goal of which is usually "capacity-building". Top of the "key goals" of the law and justice partnership in PNG is "to achieve measurable progress against sector goals".

But Sinclair Dinnen, senior fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University, said that "crime and corruption is certainly not getting any better" in PNG.

In recent weeks, Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, a leading ethnic Chinese businessman was murdered, and all the inmates of the maximum-security jail escaped, with only two recaptured.

Dr Dinnen asked: "What are we getting for this money?" What can aid projects achieve "in the context where the whole notion of public service is, to say the least, fragile, and people are operating in different worlds?"

He added: "Capacity-building is such an inexact and uncertain process, and you can't see significant advances there in PNG. We've been working at helping improve the crime situation for 35 years now, and haven't got a lot to show for it. There's a culture of impunity now. You can get away with murder."

An AusAID spokeswoman said: "The PNG government frequently requests Australia to provide technical experts to advise PNG government departments, and approves these appointments. These advisers bring crucial skills that often do not exist locally.

"In order to attract the best people to adviser positions, it's necessary to pay competitive market rates."

AusAID said the positive results of the PNG justice program included revitalisation of village courts and a decrease in the number of juveniles held on remand.

And road maintenance was important in Vanuatu for those in isolated rural areas dependent on transport links.

From The Australian with additional reporting from AAP.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Last year me mate Bjorn visited a coral atoll known as the Carteret Islands, which is a cluster of islands about three hours east of here. On one of those islands he met a 14 year old boy called Alvin.

Alvin is suffering from an undiagnosed skin disease which has resulted in the loss of his toes and fingers. The local doctor is unable to provide any treatment beyond covering his wounds. For Alvin to get proper treatment he needs to be sailed to Bougainville and flown from there to Port Moresby (Buka General Hospital does not have the necessary laboratory facilities).

Bjorn has decided to do what he can to help Alvin and has set up a fundraising website to try and raise $2,000, which would cover the costs of return travel to Port Moresby and medical treatment in a hospital. Please take the time to visit this website and make a donation so he can get some medical treatment. Note that the pay pal link for payment is in Danish, but you can easily switch to English by choosing from the drop down menu on the top right hand corner - click on Dansk.

Once the money is sorted I will then personally make the arrangements to get Alvin to a hospital.

Thank you in advance or any help you can give.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rage Against The Machine

You can't make this stuff up. I love it!

Rage Against The Machine to play free show as reward

Rage Against The Machine have revealed details of a free gig rewarding fans following the campaign for last year's Christmas number one.

The Californian band have fulfilled their promise by playing a concert at London's Finsbury Park venue on Sunday 6 June.

Tickets for the 40,000 capacity event will be distributed via a lottery system - fans have until midnight on Sunday 14 February to register their details for the ballot.

Announcing the news on Radio 1's Zane Lowe show guitarist Tom Morello said: "We promised to play a free show if our song was number one at Christmas and here we come."

He added: "We were very happy that our song was a vehicle for what was truly a grassroots people's revolution.

Rage beat X Factor's Joe McElderry to Christmas number one

"It was not so much the band as the people who toppled the X Factor giant - frankly it was a shock wave around the world."

In December Rage Against The Machine beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to Christmas top spot following a Facebook campaign begun by music fans Jon and Tracy Morter.

In the most competitive festive race for many years the Californian rap-rockers sold 500,000 downloads of their track Killing In The Name, beating McElderry's cover of Miley Cyrus's The Climb by 50,000.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bougainville vs Rio Tinto

So those that have been paying attention will know that there was a domestic dispute between Bougainville Copper Limited, the Government of Papua New Guinea and (some) Bougainvilleans. Things went bad very quickly and Bougainville is still picking up the pieces.

The conflict essentially centred on disputes over the distribution of profits arising from the mine, the environmental impacts of the mine and the influx of migrants. The conflict itself added another dimension when guns were introduced and the middle ground became no-man's land.

So where does Rio Tinto, one of the largest international mining corporations, fit into the picture? Well, as it happens, they own Bougainville Copper Limited, and some locals have connected the dots and filed a class action law suit against Rio Tinto in the United States.

How can they do that? Well, I won't drag you through the details, but a piece of legislation called the United States Alien Tort Claims Act allows foreign nationals to bring suits in the United States against companies that violate international law. And let me tell you, we are talking some serious allegations here…

In brief, the 22 Bougainvillean plaintiffs have alleged that improperly dumped waste rock and tailings from the Panguna mining operations harmed the island's environment and the health of its residents.  They further alleged that Rio Tinto engaged in racially discriminatory labour practices at the mine by paying local black workers lower wages than white workers and by housing black workers in poor conditions.

If you think that's starting a fight, the plaintiffs have also argued that, because the mine was a joint venture between Rio Tinto and the PNG Government, and because Rio Tinto's threats led PNG to use military force against Bougainvilleans, Rio Tinto is responsible for human rights violations and war crimes committed during the Crisis.


Rio Tinto immediately counter-punched by challenging the basis for filing the case in the United States and after lots of dodging and weaving it has finally been decided that, yes, it's kosher to hear the case in the US and certain allegations (specifically the claims concerning crimes against humanity, war crimes and racial discrimination) were of universal concern and should be heard.

Now, it has taken nine years for the case to get this far, so don't expect too much in the near future, and even if they make it to the 12th round there's a nasty hook waiting for them… under PNG law it is illegal for compensation proceedings to be taken or pursued in a foreign court.

So this whole thing has barely started but it is clear that it is going to be controversial. At best this case will bring up issues that have yet to be dealt with in a public arena; at worst this case risks undermining Bougainville's progress on reconciliation and peace building. Time will tell.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Restoration and Development in Bougainville

Tok Save

Community Views on Restoration and Development

3 February 2010


The ABG Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid Coordination has released the findings from a series of public forums that were conducted across Bougainville in 2009. Public forums were held in Buka, Arawa, Buin and the Carterets Islands to seek public opinion on whether progress has been achieved over the last four years, what the challenges to progress were and where the ABG should invest its resources to ensure continued development in Bougainville.

Forum participants were generally of the opinion that progress has been made on restoring and developing Bougainville. Participants complimented the community policing programme, noted the increase in the number of aid posts and discussed the number of schools in Bougainville.

Forum participants have also identified a number of challenges facing Bougainville, including the continued presence of guns in the community; the existence of the Morgan Junction Roadblock; the lack of financial and electricity services in most of Bougainville; the costs involved in sending children to school and shortages of medical supplies in Bougainville's health centres.

To achieve continued progress forum participants have recommended several actions that the ABG could take, including: improving the performance of the police; disarmament or registration of guns; the rehabilitation of dormant plantations; extending access to electricity and credit facilities; subsidisation of school fees; improved teacher performance; more health patrols and the recruitment of more nurses and doctors.

On behalf of the ABG the Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid coordination would like to thank the 725 Bougainvilleans who took time out of their day to attend the forums and express their points of view.

A report summarising the issues raised at the forums is available from the Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid Coordination. This report will inform advice to the Bougainville Executive Council on what Bougainville's development priorities are for the period 2011-2015.