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Unprecedented Australian help for national election


At the ballot boxAUSTRALIAN OFFICIALS SAY they are providing an unprecedented level of help to Papua New Guinea as it prepares for this month's general election.

PNG election officials face a huge logistical challenge as they manage the difficult terrain and remote areas for the upcoming elections. 

PNG is now gearing up for its general election after a tumultuous year in politics, stemming from the long-running leadership dispute between Peter O'Neill and Sir Michael Somare over who is the legitimate prime minister.

But preparing for the election is not a task the country can handle on its own.

The country's rugged geography and poor infrastructure makes preparing for the elections a huge logistical task.

Australian Defence Force planes and helicopters are being used to fly election material and personnel around the country, while the Australian Federal Police have funded and installed a $2.5 million national communication network for local police.

AusAID and the Australian Civilian Corps are also providing training for local electoral officials.

Australia's high commissioner to PNG Ian Kemish says it is an unprecedented amount of help.

"Papua New Guinea has requested this assistance. It's important we respond to our close friend and neighbour," he said.

"It's a time when the economy is going through great transformation and great change. It's also, let's face it, been a pretty turbulent political period over the course of the last year and it's very important to Papua New Guineans that Papua New Guinea move on into new political territory where there's more clarity and more stability."

PNG's electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen says Australia's help is valuable and timely.

"This election is more crucial for us in terms of getting support from the Australian Government and also from the New Zealand government and it makes life easier. It makes our job easier," he said.

"People have gone through trying times with this political impasse and I think they're trying to get this out of the way and see new government in place by August-September this year."


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Mrs Barbara Short

Andrew, a word from your old teacher, Neasmith - get your men to watch out for corruption.

I've had reports from a very good authority that Mr So and So "bribed the electoral officer into registering his nomination to stand" (although he doesn't live in that electorate).

And Mr So and So "is flying round the electorate in a helicopter handing out squillions of kina, not only to the voters but also sadly to the returning officers and the police."

Mr So and So, I've been told, also now has a close relative in a top position in the Police.

God help PNG.

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