Looking at the development assistance allocation for Papua New Guinea in last week's federal budget the standout is the focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, and especially vaccinating the 8.5 million people of our closest neighbour.
Clearly the Australian Government believes that mass vaccination is the best, if not only, solution to the escalating Covid-19 crisis in Papua New Guinea.
That is the policy being pursued here in Australia, as are all developed countries, and some developing countries.
Sadly, the hope that mass vaccination will contain the pandemic in Papua New Guinea seems to me to be defying reality – and is in need of urgent and total revision!
Before I write my opinions on Papua New Guinea I often consult my many PNG contacts in politics, business, the NGO sector and wider community.
I sometimes wonder whether DFAT and our High Commission in PNG do the same?
There have in recent weeks been any number of reports from medical practitioners and health workers in PNG expressing grave concern at the extraordinarily low "acceptance rate" of vaccination among health workers, let alone the wider population.
Various sources have confirmed that as many as half the nation's front line health workers have either rejected or are reluctant to take the vaccine which is on offer.
So I decided to ask a couple of my business contacts what the attitude of their workers, and especially national workers, toward being vaccinated.
The response was absolutely alarming! In the case of one employer in the transport sector all ten Australian workers agreed to be vaccinated. Of the 180 Papua New Guinean workers just THREE agreed to be vaccinated! And that was after the employer told them continued employment might be dependent on being vaccinated.
The second employer is a major player in the hospitality sector. Of his 150 Papua New Guinean workers all but THREE declined to be vaccinated!
These statistics don't lie or mislead. They reflect the real world in our nearest neighbour.
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