Free and fair elections for PNG
Posted June 23, 2017
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Minister, Papua New Guinea will hold its national election from 24 June to 8 July. Colleagues, you may be interested to know that there are 3,324 candidates, of whom 165 are women and, since independence in 1975, only seven women have been elected to that parliament. There are 45 political parties, and I am sure everyone would like to know that 2,620, or 79 per cent, of the candidates are independent. So my question to the minister is this: Is the Australian government supporting an increase in the number of women candidates running for election? What is being done to ensure fair and free elections for the people of Papua New Guinea? (Time expired)
Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:29): I thank the member for Indi for her question. Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour. In fact, only four kilometres separates us at our closest point. Our historic and wartime experiences have forged our very deep and close friendship, but our contemporary partnership is based on a broad and growing relationship in trade and investment, security cooperation and people-to-people links through education and sport, in particular, and our development assistance partnership with PNG is Australia's largest.
Papua New Guinea is in fact a vibrant democracy, and the Australian government is responding to a request from the PNG government to assist in the preparations for their national elections, which will commence on 24 June. Through the Australian Electoral Commission, we are providing logistical and operational planning. We have provided training for over 30,000 PNG staff, who will be required to be involved in the election. The Australian Defence Force is also providing helicopters and planes to transport personnel and deliver election materials across PNG.
The member for Indi points out that the PNG government is keen to increase the number of women contesting this election, and the Australian government is supporting a range of initiatives increasing not only voter awareness but also the opportunities for women to take part. We have in fact trained 127 potential female candidates and, as the member rightly points out, 165 women are contesting this election.
We have also provided support through the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct, which is providing training and opportunities for enhancing leadership amongst the PNG public service, particularly women. I am pleased to announce that not only are we supporting the PNG government through the electoral process; a delegation of parliamentarians from the Australian parliament will in fact by deployed to PNG to observe the elections. I want to thank the member for Indi, the member for Bowman, Senator Claire Moore and Senator Linda Reynolds for taking part in this delegation.
The Australian government's support for the PNG elections, through this delegation and through other initiatives, demonstrates our support for democracies in the Pacific. I am sure I speak on behalf of all members of this House when we wish the people of PNG all the very best for their national elections between 24 June and 8 July, and we look forward to working with the newly elected leadership of PNG once this election has been completed.
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