Aid Has Now Become An Industry by Kevin W. Trueman

The most common perception of aid is that it is help given to a person or persons in their
time of need and given without the recipient being obligated to pay for the
assistance rendered. However, nowadays in the Pacific on a government-to-government
basis, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing is further from the
truth. Canberra has now coined the phrase “Aid for Trade”.

Australians and New Zealanders are generally speaking generous people and they want to help Pacific Islanders
without looking for reward. This is aid done mainly through their charities and
their service clubs and organizations without the razzamatazz and self-glorifying
publicity of TV shows that seem to be the present style of government aid agencies
that are bent on promoting themselves.

So many of these so called AusAID projects seem to employ large numbers of highly paid staff either on very high
salaries or consultancy packages and the majority produce little in return
except huge bills for the Australian taxpayer.

In the past, aid projects used to be run by whoever was managing the project and there were no enormous
administration overheads. The managers had to be capable competent and persons
of integrity. To be on the safe side, there was usually a six- monthly audit
done by a skilled auditor who might have a dozen or more such projects under
his wing. Accountability, profitability, transparency and honesty were not just
expected but demanded as the norm.

I remember when the former Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam came to power in Australia, and he proceeded to
push Papua New Guinea to earlier than expected independence. His
explanation to the Australian public was that this would save them a fortune in
taxes and that the percentage of profits from Bougainville Copper’s earnings
that would be paid to Port Moresby would more than compensate the Australian
contribution of funding to PNG.

In addition all of the senior Australian public servants who worked in PNG would be given a “golden hand shake”
once they handed in their resignations. A lot of these people had more seniority
than many of the senior public servants in Canberra.

What has the result of this been? Maintaining the old colonial administration would have been cheaper for the
Australian taxpayer than the present Australian aid programs with the highly
paid advisers who pay no tax themselves to Australia or elsewhere. In addition
there has been a civil war in Bougainville because the people of Bougainville
resented their huge mining revenues going to Port Moresby while they remained
in relative squalor.

Whenever we get a Labor government in Australia, the size of the public service sector increases, not usually by
increasing the actual number of public servants, but by engaging consultants,
recruited through consultancy agencies. This increases the cost to the
Australian taxpayer considerably. And makes some people in the know extremely

A few days ago Australia’s Prime Minister announced that Australia and New Zealand  would establish an education fund for Pacific
Islanders of $40 million dollars for tertiary education in New Zealand and
Australia over the next ten years.  If the average cost of a degree is $50,000 per year and the average course is four
years, it will represent about 200 scholarships or the equivalent of ten
scholarships a year. What is embarrassing for Australians is that New Zealanders
seem to be paying the bigger share.

The twisting and bullying by the present Australian Labor government on the Pacific Island Forum and the Pacific
Islands generally, is detrimental to Australia’s interest. The beneficences are
China, Indonesia and India, countries that are all making tremendous inroads
into the region.

If Canberra had more dialogue with Australians who were in business and had lived in the Pacific for some time,
they would gain a better and more comprehensive understanding of the region and
its differences. The Australian government needs to show more respect for the
sovereignty of their Pacific neighbours and get back to the genuine friendship
that was there once. The present bureaucratic arrogance shown by the government
of Australia to her Pacific neighbours only increases the influence of China,
Indonesia and India in the region at a geopolitical and economic cost to

Regional unity and a better and more prosperous state for Australia and her Pacific neighbours will depend on
enlightened aid and cooperation by the governments in the region.

Kevin W. Trueman

Kevin Trueman has had considerable business interests in
Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Pacific and South East Asia, in trading,
building, shipping, agricultural and pastoral enterprises. He’s currently in
business in Vanuatu and lives at Port Vila.


  1. Alpal said,

    Interesting thoughts with more than a grain of truth I suspect. Well done Kev, Alan Pretty

    • Jan van Kamp said,

      Read with great interest the aid-as-an-industry article in the newspaper in Port Vila, where am working short-term (yes in the aid industry!); thought I recognised the name Kevin Trueman, googled and presto: the same Kevin who sold me a whole crate of Sepik ‘artifacts’ when I Ieft the Sepik in 1974. Then I saw the comments by Alan Pretty, who was a colleague Didiman and John Pasquarelli, who owned the Karawari Lodge, not far from Imanmeri, where I started up rubber production around 1972. Truely a blast from the past!

  2. john pasquarelli said,

    Kopar – you should have been in politics! Pasquarelli – why don’t you reply to emails?????

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