The Disciplines of Leadership, Democracy and Revolution in the Developing World

In late 2010, as a young UN staffer in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, I witnessed the tail end of an ultimately fatal high-speed police chase. It was a late Friday afternoon and I was standing across the road from a busy outdoor marketplace, accompanied by men, women and children buzzing home for the weekend. The gentle energy of the Friday afternoon, however, quickly dissolved from the screeching tires of four land cruisers sliding through the market, accompanied by two loud gunshots. I’ll never forget the unplanned choreography of around 700 people, including myself, dropping and splintering apart at the […]

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Strong At Home Means Strong Away: Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill and Foreign Policy

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s domestic reforms have strengthened Papua New Guinea both at home and abroad. ‘We live in an age of official apologies for historic crimes,’ writes the American scholar Peter Berger. Saying ‘sorry’—from Barack Obama’s apology for the Christian Crusades to Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations—has clearly become a useful tool for modern leaders attempting to symbolically pacify past tensions. In early 2014, although much less significant, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill also delivered an apology. O’Neill’s ‘sorry’, however, was not for historic crimes but to PNG’s neglected diplomatic service, which he said had […]

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A modern lesson in ‘old school’ leadership: UK Prime Minister David Cameron

The British Prime Minister deserves more credit than electoral success Until the recent UK election it had become common, even among staunch conservatives, to write off the Tory leader David Cameron. The sum of accusations Cameron faced, from disfiguring conservative principles to peddling an overly cosmetic appearance, primed the Tories to predictable electoral defeat. No British party, the experts said, should fantasize of an outright majority. And certainly not the Conservatives. While many were surprised with Cameron’s win the applause has, understandably, shifted rapidly to pressing issues of Greek debt and offshore terror attacks against British nationals. But Cameron’s triumph, […]

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Benjamin Franklin in the Pacific Islands?

What an American founding father can still teach us about life and wealth For some time now I’ve thought about what the great Benjamin Franklin would say if he took a walk (or paddle) through the Pacific Islands. Franklin, who helped found the United States, is one of the most well-known figures in history for contributions to writing, publishing, diplomacy, innovation and politics. The most accomplished American of his generation, and arguably of all time, he has provided generations with universal advice on ‘the way to wealth’ through simple values like thrift, industry and frugality. He delivered this advice at […]

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Rhodes, student politics and a small warning for PNG

Earlier last month South African students from the University of Cape Town rallied, threw excrement and tore down a statue of the historically prodigious businessman and politician Cecil John Rhodes (1853 – 1902). Rhodes is most clearly remembered for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, which has sponsored thousands of students globally – many of them African – to study at one of the finest universities in the world. At around the same time similar public taunts emerged around South Africa against symbols of white colonialism and imperialism. These acts are clearly distressing in a number of ways but, to audiences in former […]

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Why ‘taking on big business’ is a poor idea

Dropping tax is an effective but underappreciated revenue maker ‘Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot,’ said Winston Churchill. ‘Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.’ Thirty-one year old ALP Senator Sam Dastyari is clearly not one of the handful. A recent profile of Dastyari exposes not only an alarming ignorance of tax and economic growth but everything that is slowly becoming wrong with Australian politics, which catapults people with […]

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Testament to power: remembering Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew

‘We start with self-reliance,’ said the late Lee Kuan Yew in a 1994 interview. ‘In the West today it is the opposite. The government says give me a popular mandate and I will solve all society’s problems.’ On 22 March 2015 Lee passed away at age ninety-one. The end of his remarkable life offers a sobering reflection on what it takes to actually build an economic pie and not just cut it up – a practice many of today’s democratic practitioners appear exceptional at. Singapore now thrives alongside the Silicon Valleys and Tel Avivs of the world. Back in the […]

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From the Solomon Islands to Houston: the harmful trend of government dependence

At a recent dinner in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, a friend commented on the unprecedented and increasing level of government dependence in the idyllic South Pacific nation of half a million. National elections, taking place at the time, were about how much the Solomon Islands could do for you rather than what you could do for the Solomon Islands (to muddle John F. Kennedy’s famous words). This trend is not just confined to ‘the Happy Islands’ – it’s clearly a discussion taking place among rich and poor at dinner tables around over the world. Annual budgets in neighbouring […]

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Literature, self-belief and affluence

Stories celebrating capitalism, promoting persistence and countering adversity can be a great way to build ideas of wealth creation among the next generation of Pacific Islanders. “There was nothing unusual about Rockefeller’s boyhood dreams,” writes John D. Rockefeller’s biographer Rob Chernow, “for the times were feeding avaricious fantasies in millions of susceptible schoolboys.” Having revolutionised the global petroleum industry in the late 1800s, and with an estimated net worth today of $US 330 billion, Rockefeller is one of the wealthiest individuals in history. Despite Rockefeller’s unique success the ideas that fuelled his boyhood dreams are common. Generations of young boys […]

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Renewing culture through economic growth

As the economies of the South Pacific grow cultures across the region will change. It’s my view that, ultimately, this process of change will be a good thing. This isn’t always an easy case to make. Crime rates, the transition from communally-held to privately-owned land and a breakdown of the traditional family structure may not appear symptoms of progress. Alongside the prevalence of vice, and health problems arising from an increased intake in processed food, the benefits of economic growth appear unsavoury to many Pacific Islanders. But we should consider two areas where the social benefits of economic activity will […]

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