At first glance, the deal between prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill transferring all Australian-bound asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea appears to deliver many benefits to that small poor country.
In return for housing the boat-arriving asylum seekers and resettling those found to be refugees, PNG receives a package of much-needed assistance, that includes redeveloping its universities, a new hospital, upgrading roads, a new courts complex, and the deployment of Australian police.
In addition, the processing centre on Manus Island will be expanded, PNG’s naval facilities on the island will receive a facelift, and schools and health centres will be constructed for Manus Islanders.
But despite these advantages, opposition to the deal has been increasingly strident, with the PNG opposition centring on what one commentator has called Australia’s “neo-colonialism”.
Legal challenges will undoubtedly arise and the deal’s future will be ultimately decided in both Australia’s and Papua New Guinea’s highest courts.
Is the deal just another iteration of the long-term relationship between our two countries? Has PNG been put over a barrel, as many critics are suggesting, and forced to help the Rudd government out of a fix, bribed by promises of development that it desperately needs