Before we celebrate Christmas we should pause for a moment to remember those who never had a chance to enjoy the occassion and all it represents beyond 1942.

I refer to the 160 young diggers, many of them teenagers, who were marched into the Toll Plantation by their Japanese captors on 4 February 1942. They had been betrayed by our political leaders who had no plans to support them or evacuate them.

As they were led into the Toll Plantation each one was asked if they would prefer to be shot or stabbed. The piercing screams heard by their mates who laid doggo in the nearby jungle indicated the Japanese had already decided not to waste bullets. Those who survived the bayonet were beheaded with samurai swords in the worst brutal massacre of the Pacific War.

It was so brutal our political leaders covered up the details for 42 years. Well so they should – they were the ones who sent them to Rabaul without any plans for their support or evacuation.

It’s fair to assume that any digger facing certain death would want to be remembered in some way – whether as a devoted father/mother-husband/wife – son/daughter – inspirational parent – loyal worker – good mate – successful entrepreneur or whatever.

But most of all they would want to be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom.

I wonder how they would feel if they knew that 75 years on there wouldn’t be a word of their sacrifice. No media release. No speeches. No memorial. Nothing!

The poor bastards!

They probably expected to be betrayed by the Japanese but would never have expected to be forgotten by the quislings responsible for remembrance and commemoration in Australia today.

‘Best We Forget’ is a more appropriate motto for them.

I’m also wondering how we should say ‘Merry Christmas’ to an Orokaiva family whose son, Winterford Tauno, recently died on the Kokoda Trail as he struggled up Ioribaiwa Ridge as a porter for an Australian tour company with an unbearable weight on his back.

How do you say ‘I’m sorry your husband-father-brother-son died’ because we had no idea that carrying such a heavy back-pack over some of the most formidable terrain could possibly be fatal.’

Well that’s bullshit because they did know!

‘They’ being those involved in the management of the Kokoda trekking industry since we assumed responsibility for its management nine years ago. They have been continuously warned of the exploitation of local guides and carriers for many years but have shamelessly chosen to ignore them.

Since the Australian Government assumed control of Kokoda in 2009 they have invested more than $50 million of taxpayers money into their ‘Kokoda Initiative’ – yet the number of trekkers has  declined by 50 per cent! How come you may well ask?

The reason is that the name ‘Kokoda’ has effectively been hijacked by environmental bureaucrats intent on using PNG as a social experiment for their ideological pursuits.

A ‘Joint’ Agreement signed by Australian and PNG Government officials in 2009 has provided a smorgasbord of opportunity for bureaucrats, academics and consultants to pursue studies in gender equity, capacity building, village livelihoods, social mapping, etc. etc. None have any skin in the game in regard to outcomes – they get handsomely paid even though most of their thought bubbles are destined to fail in PNG.

For example, a Strategic Plan developed by Department of Environment managers for the period 2012 – 2015 contained 5 strategies and 33 objectives. The plan was developed without consultation with experienced Kokoda trek operators or community leaders along the trail. As of 2015 not one of the five strategies or one of the 33 objectives has been achieved – not one!

The failure of their Strategic Plan was so complete that there has been no follow up plan developed since then.

After nine years insitu and $50 million of taxpayer funding there is still no master plan to protect, honour and interpret the wartime heritage of the Kokoda Trail for future generations of Australian and Papua New Guineans. The protection of sites sacred to our wartime heritage in Papua New Guinea is simply not on the agenda of the current generation of Ministers or their bureaucratic officials.

As we approach 2018 there is not a single management protocol in place for the Kokoda trekking industry. There is not a single toilet that meets the most basic hygiene standards along the entire trail. The organisation put in place by the Australian Government has not produced an Annual Report for five years – or a single newsletter for three. The villagers across the trail have not received a single dividend from the management authority for at least two years. There is no booking system in place for campsites. There is no trek itinerary management system. There is no integrity in the system for licensing trek operators. There is no welfare protection for local PNG guides and carriers.

If there was there is a fair chance that Winterford Tauno would be alive to celebrate Christmas with his family.

Unfortunately nobody cares – his death will be quickly forgotten – just as the young victims of the Toll massacre have been by generations of political and bureaucratic quislings.

Next month is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Beach-heads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda – it will be interesting to see if they rate a Media Release!

Lest We Forget