In his televised news conference Rudd agrees that assimilation for refugees will not be easy. Adapting to Papua and New Guinea’s society will be difficult for many of them, but a small price to pay for Australia’s abundant generosity. As a reassurance that things are a lot better than they used to be, he carefully reads from my hastily-researched notes, saying instances of cannibalism are still rarely reported in the cities, and day-trips to the Highlands on head-hunting missions are optional, but usually frowned upon. With great conviction, and to loud, thunderous applause Kevvie says, ‘In the 21st century, the people of Papua and New Guinea no longer play football with their enemies’ heads.’
And most people believe him.
The media now silenced, convinced of the insanity of Kevvie and his brilliant new plan, they have no further questions. Rudd is probably himself thinking that it is a truly awesome new policy, quite worthy of Australia’s Emperor in-waiting.
But then a demand comes suddenly out of the blue from the forever-whinging Islamist leader, Keysar Trad. Something about Muslim boat refugees being disadvantaged and offended. Rudd, finding nothing about it on my cheat sheet, hands the mike over to PNG’s PM Peter O’Neil to answer. Standing his ground admirably, O’Neil completely rejects the idea of any special treatment being given to Muslim refugees. He says, forcing PNG citizens to remove their traditional penis-gourds during Ramadan to avoid offending Muslims is absurd, ‘as we are a Christian country, and will remain as such.’
The conference ends in triumph. Everyone in the room seems jubilant: finally, a plan to stop the boats and Tony Abbott, all in one fell swoop. Everyone, that is, except for poor Keyser Trad. For Traddie, and perhaps for some of his Muslim refugees, the future of the PNG solution looks pretty bleak.