Five questions for Paladin’s Managing Director David Saul and Director Ian Stewart


Paladin Group’s Managing Director David Saul and Director Ian Stewart talk to Business Advantage PNG in this exclusive interview about the challenges they have had in PNG, what they have learned and their future plans.

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): You have received some negative publicity in the Australian media this year. What message do you have about that for our readers?

Paladin’s David Saul

David Saul (DS): Much of the reporting was ill-informed and Paladin was restricted in the type of response we could make because of our contractual obligations. Some of the articles contained factual errors. Some have been retracted, or journalists have chosen not to acknowledge incorrect information. Some articles sensationalised old issues which PNG readers would already be aware of. In reality, the facts are significantly different.

Paladin has been operating within Papua New Guinea for almost a decade and on Manus Island since 2013; it had long-standing agreements with local landowners and knew the operating environment very well. Additionally, many Paladin managers are experienced in the region and have run, or had significant roles in, large, successful support operations for public companies.

None of this was communicated by the media. When we discuss it with customers or suppliers, most are sceptical of media reports. For most business people, the focus is on tangible performance—the quality of the service or support that has been provided to them.

BAPNG: You operate in ‘uncertain and difficult environments’. What are typically your greatest challenges when operating in PNG?

DS: The challenges of operating in PNG include the physical, regulatory and financial elements. Many people outside Papua New Guinea lack an awareness of the archipelagic nature of the country, the length and complexity of supply chains, and the time and effort involved in covering routine distances as part of business.

BAPNG: You are a major employer in PNG. What are your priorities in human resources?

DS: Paladin recognises the capability of PNG employees. Over the last 12 months we have sought qualified accounting/finance, HR and general operations professionals to take over roles often undertaken by expatriates. This has been very successful; our key priority now is to invest in the development of capable middle managers and supervisors.

‘The key to partnering in PNG is to have a genuine intention to leave a legacy.’

Story continues after advertisment...

Additionally, we have just started an apprenticeship scheme for electricians through our subsidiary, ECM. We are confident we can develop fully qualified tradesmen to meet future demands. Paladin sees this as a sensible commitment for longer term benefits.

BAPNG: Your approach is to work with partners. How do you identify those partners and what is the key to partnering in PNG?

Paladin’s Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart (IS): There are two ways in which they come about. The first is when we are asked to form a partnership in an area where we work by a local representative. The second method is to secure a contract in a new area and we seek out and engage with local people and attempt to establish a partnership.

For the most part, we are invited in or approached. Introductions can come from a wide variety of sources. The most common is from a staff member; Paladin has employees from every province in Papua New Guinea. For example, with our partnership in Manus Island, we were approached by the construction contractor Decmil in Brisbane to assist with security advice. We responded and were awarded a tender for security services. We could have continued to provide security without local assistance, but our Community Strategy means we seek out partners.

The key to partnering in PNG is to have a genuine intention to leave a legacy. When Paladin is invited to come into a partnership with a community or landowner organisation, then we are only welcome for as long as we conduct ourselves in good faith. We immediately work towards building capacity in the local partner organisation.

BAPNG: What is your strategy for future growth in PNG, and how does that fit into your regional strategy?

DS: Paladin has selectively developed a diversified range of capabilities that can support the resources sector, government projects or general business requirements. Regionally, we transfer the processes and procedures developed in PNG to other security businesses. Larger customers like the idea of a consistent approach to the provision of security, be it in PNG, East Timor or Fiji.

Leave a Reply