Wednesday, April 17, 2013

PNG investors roll into Cairns

The Loose Change office usually has the radio tuned to ABC Far North. However sometimes, led astray by Hillbilly Watch, should Auntie become a bit dull then local commercial talkback provides a diversion. So it was that yesterday I happened to hear John Mackenzie talk to the state member for Cairns who was in Port Moresby.

The Australia PNG Business Forum is being held this week in Port Moresby and as would be expected given our proximity and links there was a strong representation from Cairns including all levels of Government. The King Parrot made mention of the extreme wealth disparity in PNG and related how, along with Warren Entsch, he had just been on a tour of Moresby backstreets with an ex PNG Government Minister who was looking to do a development project in Cairns. He chose not to name the person.

Loose Change has previously posted on the darker aspects of our connection with PNG. This is rarely (if ever?) mentioned in local media even when directly relevant to Cairns. A quick search threw up some interesting links including this report last October in The Australian:

At a presentation in Sydney last week, Mr Koim told the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) that six PNG politicians had invested heavily in property in Cairns, and he intimated that the money invested far outweighed their salaries.

Declining AAP's request to name the politicians, who are the subject of the "intelligence gathering" stage of an investigation, in conjunction with Australian agencies such as the Australian Federal Police, Mr Koim told AUSTRAC the funds amounted to A$11.5 million in property deals in Cairns and northern Australia.

The property deals are divided into tranches of A$3.8m, A$1.9m, A$2.3m, A$2.3m, A$2m and A$1.45m, he said." They have bought property and other assets, put money in bank accounts and gambled heavily in your casinos and have never been troubled by having their ill-gotten gains taken off them," Mr Koim told the conference on Thursday.

"Unless the money can be prevented from leaving our country or prevented from entering Australia, the bad guys win and the rest of Papua New Guinea suffers."

Koim is the head of the PNG anti-corruption task force and estimates that almost half of the PNG development budget is lost to corruption. He also commented that "Australian financial institutions have been complicit by turning a blind eye to dirty monies being redirected to Australian connections"

I had intended a post back in February on the latest annual result from Reef Casino. The Cairns Post reported this as though there had been some kind of high roller raid on the casino. The reality seems to be that win rates in that sector had returned closer to the theoretical after an abnormal win rate the previous year for the Casino where PNG high rollers scored a specific mention. Reef then even had the PNG high roller market as a strategic target but there has been no mention of this since.

While a stable and prosperous PNG is in the particular interest of Cairns a previous post at Loose Change suggested some circumspection re dealings may be warranted in the relationship. I'm not sure boasting on talkback radio about cavorting around the backstreets of Moresby with un-named politically connected PNG investors is too circumspect?

Previous PNG posts:

PNG High Rollin'

Transit visas for PNG

FNQ surrounded by unicameral majoritarian tyranny

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