BRUCE HILL:

The Australian Government says the conduct of the election in PNG is a matter for the Government and people of the country. There have been many reports of difficulties in the polling process, including many people being unable to vote because of irregularities with the electoral roll. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, says Australia is happy to provide logistic and other support for the election, but won’t take a position on the conduct of the polls themselves.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well of course Australia is a close and longstanding partner of Papua New Guinea. Look you have to remember that the PNG elections are amongst the most logistically difficult in the world. One only has to look at the terrain of PNG; the mountains, the spread of the small islands, the poor transport networks, to know that it is logistically very, very difficult. At the request of the PNG Government we provided technical advice and logistical support to PNG to hold its national elections, as we do with other countries when these requests are made. Now we are aware of reported delays and irregularities in the electoral roll during the polling so far, but it’s not really appropriate for Australia to provide a running commentary on the conduct of elections in another country. It’s up to the PNG Government. It’s their responsibility to deliver this election in line with the expectations of the PNG people.

BRUCE HILL:

Is there any concern about the potential way the people of PNG might see the legitimacy of the next Parliament, many thousands of people weren’t on the roll and weren’t able to vote. Could that be a concern to- you know- PNG’s closest and most important neighbour, Australia?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well, polling obviously has concluded across the country, and we know… well there were international observers there and no doubt that they will report on the conduct of the election in due course. We also deployed observers during this election, and as we have in past elections, and I think that these observations will no doubt inform our ongoing support to help strengthen PNG’s electoral system. It’s really important that we develop productive relationships with whoever the PNG people elect as their leaders, but as I said we look forward now to seeing the report of the international observers, but Australia has certainly given support to the PNG elections as it has done with other countries in our region.

BRUCE HILL:

Yes, a lot of Australian Defence Force personnel, particularly in the air force, were sent up to provide logistic support. I well remember we spoke to a very high quality young woman, an Australian service woman, and her family were actually from there and she speaks Tok Pisin, Motu and Hoodlagoon- coastal language from down south- and she was telling us about the work they were doing. Is there more perhaps that Australia might be able to do in future elections to help out logistically? As you say this is logistically the most challenging election possibly in the world.  

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well we, of course, work closely with PNG to support the delivery of elections and the things that this election has entailed. And that of course has included providing support, in-kind support from the Australian Defence Force. And the Australian Defence Forces have helped the PNG Electoral Commission with the logistics and training of electoral staff through experts, and including the Australian Electoral Commission and the Australian Civilian Corps. And we’ve had four officials from the Australian Electoral Commission, and seven officials from the Australian Civilian Corps. This logistical support has also helped the transportation of election material and PNG security personnel to get to those very hard to reach places, and we’ve done so with Australian Defence Force helicopters and planes. Our assistance has also provided mobile technology- 5,000 mobile phones, which have helped to improve the communication between the polling teams, the counting teams and of course the headquarters. So this is the nature of the logistical support that we have given which of course includes the in-kind support from the Australian Defence Force.

BRUCE HILL:

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific.   

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