I watched this last night, and was impressed. Dateline (Wednesdays 8.30 pm, repeated Thursdays and Mondays at 1 pm) is charting an independent course unimpressed by government spin/propaganda. There was an excellent report from Iraq, followed by an interview with journalist Paul McGeogh, but sadly not transcribed, and an up close look at the Melanesian leaders, followed by an interview with Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies at the ANU and also a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute.
GEORGE NEGUS: Words like, or adjectives like ‘arrogant’, ‘insulting’, ‘patronising’ have been used by people like Michael Somare, Sir Michael Somare. How would you describe Australia’s behaviour in this whole episode?
PROFESSOR HUGH WHITE: I certainly think the kind of conduct we have seen in the relationship between Australia and the Solomons and between Australia and PNG over the last few weeks has been pretty unsatisfactory. I think there has been an element of arrogance and arbitrariness about it. Mind you, I think there has been some fairly unsatisfactory conduct on the other side as well. I think that both sides carry some of the blame. The disappointing thing is that in order to make something like RAMSI work – and for that matter John Howard’s broader vision of Australia’s new, more engaged role in the South Pacific – we need to move past that kind of old stuff, the kind of accusations of neocolonialism which have been around for so long. And I think the problem with the way our government has handled this whole affair with Moti over the last few weeks has been it has drawn us back to that bad old era of the petty, confrontational questions over issues which are in themselves pretty irrelevant…
GEORGE NEGUS: Finally, Hugh, as a professional observer of the situation, what would you give Australia out of 10 in its performance as a Pacific leader?
PROFESSOR HUGH WHITE: I would give us something like 8 out of 10 for the vision of RAMSI and I would give it something like 3 out of 10, at best, for the implementation of RAMSI so far. And 1 out of 10 for diplomacy over the last few weeks.
GEORGE NEGUS: 1 out of 10? Being very generous with the diplomacy.
PROFESSOR HUGH WHITE: I’m being very generous.