Speech to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Hon Charlie Lynn MLC on 4 May 2006
Debate resumed from 2 May 2006.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [4.32 p.m.]: The acknowledgment of traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican and reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor Government era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors’ wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say sorry for historical wrongs over which we had no influence. As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the Government.
I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate, not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. My view is that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The “feelgood” factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine to get some balance back into the debate and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.
While the arrival of half-a-dozen Australian Government Ministers in PNG during their annual ‘Repentance Day’ holiday is coincidental it does provide a timely opportunity to offer some repentance of our own for the past few decades of paternalism in our relationship with our closest neighbour, former territory, fellow Commonwealth Member and wartime ally.
The delegation is obviously an outcome of the recent visit to Australia by Prime Minister James Marape who was accorded VIP treatment by our PM, Scott Morrison. Indeed it was the highest profile visit by any PNG Prime Minister for at least three decades and there is no doubt the two leaders have developed a close friendship.
I would hope the Ministerial delegation will include a visit to Bomana War Cemetery to allow them to pay their respects to the thousands of young Australian and Papuan soldiers who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy in both countries today.
One cannot visit Bomana without feeling an intense sense of pride in the work the Office of Australian War Graves do in maintaining such a sacred site. It was therefore disappointing to see our Minister for Veterans Affairs was not part of the delegation in view of the fact that PNG is the custodian of land sacred to our shared wartime heritage.
Bomana is not only a sanctuary for reflection on past sacrifice it is also a gateway for relationship building as increasing numbers of Australians are seeking pilgrimages to battlefields in Kokoda, Buna, Gona, the Black Cat Track, Shaggy Ridge, Milne Bay, Lae and Rabaul. Over the past decade more than 50,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail which has generated more than $150 million for tourism income.
Unfortunately the mood of the delegation will change if they
are venture beyond Bomana.
TripAdvisor has judged Adventure Kokoda to be the best trekking company on the Kokoda Trail in 2019 – for the 5th consecutive year.
The 560 trekkers we have led across the trail this year has generated the following benefits for PNG:
K1 million for Air Niugini
K200,000 trek fees for the KTA
K290,000 for food purchases at Port Moresby supermarkets
K260,000 for accommodation at Sogeri
K100,000 for bus/truck transport
K450,000 for charter aircraft between Port Moresby and Kokoda
K2.56 million in wages for our PNG guides and carriers
K400,000 for campsite owners
K130,000 for local purchases along the trail
K260,000 worth of school and medical supplies donated by our trekkers
K60,000 worth of clothing and equipment donated to guides and carriers at the end of their trek
This equates to atotal benefit of K5.35 million for PNG from Adventure Kokoda this year![i]. In 1991, when Charlie Lynn first trekked across the Kokoda Trail the combined income of all the subsistence villages was estimated to be around K60,000 – we have come a long way together.
Developed community market gardens at Sogeri and Iaowari High School and Sogeri National High School
Built a Community Centre at Abuari
Assisted in the building of a TB Isolation Ward at Popondetta Hospital
Engaged a full-time agricultural graduate to provide assistance to school and villagers on the Sogeri Plateau
Developed a Commercial Fish Farm at Iaowari High School
Donated 4000 library books to Port Moresby Grammar School
Major Charlie Lynn’s work in establishing the Kokoda trekking industry was recognised in 2015 when he was honoured with his induction as an Officer of the Logohu by the PNG Government in their New Years’ Honours List ‘for service to the bilateral relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia and especially in the development of the Kokoda Trail and its honoured place in the history of both nations’ over the past 25 years.
Up to 600 trekkers will be on the Kokoda Trail during the Anzac period over the next fortnight.
The Australian Tour Operators Association (KTOA) , established to protect the interests of their members, has refused to adopt the WW2 army standard of 18 kg as the maximum weight to be carried by the PNG wartime carriers in 1942. Instead, the KTOA has adopted a weight of 22.5 kg established by an Australian bureaucrat who had never trekked across the trail.
The 4.5 kg difference will lead to the loss of 150 jobs for local Koiari and Orokaiva villagers during the Anzac period (4.5 kg X 600 = 2700 kg ÷ 18 kg = 150).
Porters required to carry 22.5 kg by the KTOA for 138 km over some of the most rugged terrain on the planet will have a limited trekking career due to the heavy physical impact on their backs, hips and knees. Unlike professional footballers who have similar career limitations due to the physical impact on their bodies there is no post-playing career for them for Kokoda porters – just a lifetime dependency on their fellow subsistence villagers for physical assistance.
Shameless exploitation of vulnerable native populations used to be referred to as ‘blackbirding ‘ – a practice that was eventually outlawed in the early part of the 20th Century – it seems the KTOA is shamefully introducing a new strain of this abhorrent practice.
Network Kokoda – a non-for-profit company established to honour our wartime heritage in Papua New Guinea – held it’s inaugural Anzac ‘For Valour’ luncheon in Parliament House Sydney on 5 April 2019. Keynote speaker was former Major-General, Senator Jim Molan AO DSC. The following presentation by founding Chairman and current Director of Network Kokoda, The Hon Charlie Lynn OAM OL (PNG), outlines the reasons for the establishment of the organization’
Mr Chairman, trekkers and guests,
I’ve have been involved with Papua New Guinea for the past 28 years and I believe I’m just starting to learn about the place. If you listen to the negatives about the place you probably wouldn’t ever want to go there – but after you’ve been a couple of times it’s hard to stay away.
Papua New Guinea forms part of Melanesia – the island chain to our immediate north.
Melanesia is a Greek term for ‘Black Islands’. It comprises West Papua with 4 million people; Papua New Guinea with 8½ million; the Solomon Islands with ¾ of a million and Fiji with 1 million – a total of 14 million who live on almost 1000 islands speaking 1000 of the World’s 6000 languages and as close as 5 kilometres from our shoreline.
It’s a land immensely rich in natural resources but at the bottom of almost every international index in regard to human wellbeing.
According to one writer it’s a place where paradox prevails:
‘Where arse grass and penis gourds mix with Hugo Boss suits and rolex watches. Where some men mine the hearts of volcanos looking for gold while others worship the spirits of ancestral crocodiles. (more…)
When we first submitted a proposal for the Kokoda Trail to be proclaimed as a National Memorial Park in 1992 and included some suggestions as to what could be done to develop it is such a way that future trekkers would be able to appreciate the historical significance of the various battlesites we thought it would be readily embraced by the Federal Government.
Unfortunately we had not reckoned on the limitations of Ministers without leadership or vision or the negative influence of their departmental bureaucrats. The following extracts from proposals we have submitted over the decade between the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the Kokoda campaign provides an insight into their indifference towards the Kokoda Trail and everything it represents:
4 November 1992 ‘While the proposals you have outlined in your letter of 25 August (1992) to the Prime Minister have undoubted merit, I can give no undertaking that anything of that nature would fall within the scope of the commemorative measures now under consideration’. The Hon Ben Humphreys MP
Minister for Veterans Affairs
22 February 1995 ‘The Government’s philosophy is to commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War 11 with activities here in Australia. The only specific events relating to ‘Australia Remembers’ planned for overseas are three small pilgrimages of Australian veterans.’ The Hon Con Sciacca MP
Minister for Veterans Affairs
24 June 1997 “As a result it is not possible to award the Civilian Service Medal to the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ at this distance in time.’ The Hon David Jull MP
Minister for Administrative Services
10 November 1997 ‘Your suggestion to form a small working group has merit. However, I do not recommend proceeding in this way at this time.’ The Hon Bruce Scott MP
Minister for Veterans Affairs
11 December 2000 ‘Your proposal to develop the Trail is unfortunately outside the scope of the Australian aid program.” Senator Kay Patterson
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
7 December 2000 ‘With these limitations in mind, I regret I am unable to offer any prospect of achieving the all-of-government approach you seek in the time frame you propose.’ The Hon Bruce Scott MP
Minister for Veterans Affairs (more…)
Ownership of the naming rights for the Kokoda Trail has been contested in Australia in recent years.
Do they belong to the nation which retains sovereign ownership of the land between Owers Corner and Kokoda i.e. Papua New Guinea?
Or to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian Battalions who were awarded the official battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’?
Or to the custodians of political correctness amongst the Australian commentariat who dislike the name ‘trail’ because of its American connotation?
Over the past decade almost 45,000 Australians have trekked across the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea. Most trekkers are motivated by the wartime history of the Kokoda campaign. This this has led to a range of books and television stories on the subject. It has also led to some extensive debate about the official name of the trail.
Contemporary debate over the name evolved after former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating kissed the ground at Kokoda on the 50th anniversary of the campaign in April 1992. This was accompanied by much ‘talkback’ noise about ‘trail’ being an American term and ‘track’ being the language of the Australian bush (ignoring the fact that our bush is criss-crossed with fire-trails). This suited Keating’s agenda for an Australian republic at the time.
The debate suited those in the Australian commentariat who harboured a strong anti-American bias over their engagement in Iraq around the time of the 60th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign. As most of the commentariat had never served in the regular armed forces they could be excused for not appreciating the esprit de corps associated with a battle honour. This, however, does not excuse them for ambushing a name that doesn’t reflect their political bias.
‘Kokoda Track’ has since emerged as the politically correct term in Australia in spite of the fact that the battle honour ‘Kokoda Trail’ was awarded to the Papuan Infantry Battalion and the 10 Australian battalions who fought in the Kokoda campaign and the name gazetted by the traditional owners of the land in 1972 i.e. the Government of Papua New Guinea. (more…)
In the world of commerce a 46 percent drop in profit would lead to serious analysis of cause and effect. Volatile AGMs would see Directors seeking to reassure shareholders of strategies to arrest the decline.
This is in stark contrast to Government which is unaccountable for results because of the craft of its practitioners and the complexity of its bureaucratic machinery.
Since Australian Environment officials assumed control of the Kokoda trekking industry in 2009 trekker numbers have declined by almost 50 percent from 5621 in 2008 to 3033 in 2018 – despite an injection of more than $50 million of Aid funding.
The official response to the decline inevitably refers to an aircraft crash in 2009 and a couple of deaths around the same period. The reality today is that whenever the scene of the crash-site is pointed out to trekkers the usual response is ‘what crash?’
Prior to the discovery of the $3billion Kodu gold and copper deposit on the southern slopes of the Kokoda Trail near Mt Bini there was no interest in the area or its people from either the PNG or Australian Governments. The appearance of bulldozers from Frontier Resources in 2006 changed that. (more…)
Hidden away in this newsletter, written by the Australian CEO assigned to the Kokoda Track Authority by the Department of Environment in Canberra, is the following innocuous paragraph:
Following are the Australian Parks and Wildlife Services specifications for Class 4 walking tracks and our response to each one.
Overview: Opportunity for visitors with advanced outdoor knowledge to find their own way along often indistinct tracks in remote areas. Users can expect frequent opportunities for solitude with few encounters with others. Response: This opportunity exists for eco- trekkers to use the Kapa Kapa track across the Owen Stanley Ranges to the east of the Kokoda Trail. Kokoda is not about ‘solitude’ and ‘few encounters’. It is a military historical pilgrimage that should not be restricted to elite bushwalking purists.(more…)