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Australia to focus on economic interests over Papua bid

Radio New Zealand International - October 23, 2015

Australia's new Prime Minister has indicated that his government will prioritise economic interests over support to reinscribe West Papua on the UN list of territories to be decolonised.

The sign came via a letter from Malcolm Turnbull in response to correspondence by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

The ULMWP petitioned Mr Turnbull to bring serious attention about Indonesia's Papua region at the United Nations and for support for a Solomon Islands push for West Papuan de-colonisation to be considered.

The prime minister's reply doesn't mention West Papua, but asserts that "to succeed in a rapidly expanding global market and to remain a high wage, generous social welfare net first world economy, we need to be more agile, creative, productive and innovative".

The ULMWP ambassador for Australia and Pacific countries, Amatus Douw, says it's hard to get Canberra to change its stand, given its economic interests in Indonesia.

"He explained that he's only concerned about Australia's economic prosperity, that's what he's saying in that letter. And I know how many Australian companies are operating in West Papua, including Rio Tinto which is one of the biggest shareholder companies from Australia (in Freeport McMoran's Papua operations), and also the other mining companies operating in West Papua as well."

Mr Douw says it is encouraging that the ULMWP has a dialogue with Canberra and will continue to advocate on the matter. He says numerous parties in Australia's political spectrum do support the West Papuan self-determination bid.

He points out that Papuans made a great effort to help Australia stave off its enemies in New Guinea during World War II, and that Canberra has a moral obligation to help West Papuans. The relationship between Australians and West Papuans, he says, requires commitment into the future.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/287804/australia-to-focus-on-economic-interests-over-papua-bid