The National, Friday July 19th, 2013
By MALUM NALU
Kevin Rudd may have “survived” Kokoda but Kokoda has not survived him, according to Charlie Lynn, who has just completed his 69th walk of the track.
Lynn, a household name along the Kokoda Track because of his involvement in helping local people, has taken exception at Rudd describing himself as a Kokoda “survivor” at a press conference with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on Monday.
Australian veterans of the World War II Kokoda campaign have also taken offence at Rudd’s comments.
Rudd, who walked the track in 2006, yesterday apologised for “any misinterpretation” that followed his claim but Lynn would have none of that.
“Since the Australian government signed a joint agreement with Papua New Guinea to assist with a World Heritage listing for the Owen Stanley Ranges, the Kokoda Track has become a lucrative honey-pot for Australian bureaucrats and consultants,” Lynn said yesterday.
“Significant sites such as the mortar position at Lake Myola have been desecrated under their watch.
“The service and sacrifice of PNG’s wartime carriers, the famous ‘fuzzy-wuzzy angels’ have still not been officially recognised.
“The medallion they were issued by the Labour government is as phoney as a sunrise dawn service in Vietnam.
“It has no formal status and its issue was restricted to photo opportunities. “
Lynn said after six years and more than K44 million in “management assistance aid”, the Labour government had left the PNG Kokoda Track Authority in a dysfunctional state.
“There is no campsite booking system in place,” he said.
“There is no effective licensing system for trek operators.
“There is no legislation to support the authority.
“There is no protection for PNG guides and carriers who are shamelessly exploited by some operators.
“Trekker numbers have almost halved under their watch.
“There is no master plan for the protection of the wartime integrity of the trail.”
Lynn said more than K6 million had been wasted on a “village livelihoods programme”.
“There is no evidence of a single sustainable outcome from this programme which originated in Canberra without any consultation with the PNG Department of Community Development,” he said.
“‘If Kevin Rudd was fair dinkum in his desire to assist PNG he would end the racial bias against PNG citizens and allow them the same access to our seasonal labour markets as we do for more than 60 other countries around the world.
“He would free up the visa system and allow them to travel freely to and from Australia for work, study and leisure.
“If we can establish such agreements with New Zealand, why can’t we do it with Papua New Guinea?
“They are a closer neighbour, a former Australian territory, a wartime ally and fellow Commonwealth member nation.
“Our relationship with Papua New Guinea deserves more than token offers of patronising aid assistance and shameless political exploitation.”