Friday 25 Jun 2021 | 05:34 | SYDNEY
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A focus on Pacific Islands has been a central component of the Lowy Institute’s work for more than a decade. We research contemporary challenges facing the Pacific islands region in areas including geostrategic competition, sustainable economic development, governance and leadership challenges, poverty alleviation, and Australia’s relationship with Pacific countries and organisations. We also hold major conferences, workshops, dialogues and exchanges. We have produced influential work on Australia’s Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, the 2006 Fiji Coup, normalising Australia’s bilateral relationship with Fiji, Australia’s bilateral relationship with Papua New Guinea, the future development challenges of Papua New Guinea, the economic benefits of greater labour mobility between Australia and the South Pacific, security and resilience dynamics in the Pacific, and foreign aid flows in the Pacific.

The Institute manages four major projects focusing on the Pacific:

The Pacific Research Program (PRP) is a consortium partnership between the Lowy Institute and the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs and Development Policy Centre, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The PRP is designed to be a globally pre-eminent centre of excellence for research on the Pacific. More details are available here.

The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is designed to enhance aid effectiveness in the Pacific.

The Australia-PNG Network is a project supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, designed to foster people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea. More details are available here.

The South Pacific Fragile States Project was a project supported by the Department of Defence to produce independent research and forward looking analysis on the key drivers of instability in the South Pacific and the associated security challenges for Australia and the wider region. More details are available here.


The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid Map is an analytical tool designed to enhance aid effectiveness in the Pacific by improving coordination, alignment, and accountability of foreign aid through enhanced transparency of aid flows. The Pacific Aid Map has collected data on close to 13,000 projects in 14 countries supplied by 62 donors from 2011 onwards. All data has been made freely available on this interactive platform, allowing users to investigate and manipulate the information in a variety of ways. The Pacific Aid Map is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Lowy Institute Pacific Aid map is available here.

Country profiles from Pacific Islands countries can be found here.

See the Chinese Aid in the Pacific map here.



Latest publications

Pacific island links: Sogavare out, COP23, Manus and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been ousted after a vote of no-confidence in Parliament. He has said the mass resignations last week that preceded the vote were due to the reintroduction of an anti-corruption bill to parliament, but members of the ruling Democratic Coalition for Change maintain that they had lost faith in Sogavare's leadership.*
  • Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has rejected an application by asylum seekers on Manus Island to restore essential services to the detention centre, which officially closed last week. Nearly 600 men remain in the facility.*
  • With the detention centre now closed, Jo Chandler's analysis from 2014 provides an interesting perspective on how Australian asylum seeker policies have affected Manus Island.
  • French and New Caledonian officials have met in Paris to discuss next year's independence referendum, with 11,000 names added to the electoral roll, formerly restricted to long-term residents. Radio New Zealand on the reaction to the decision and on how the referendum will be conducted.
  • The COP23 climate change conference hosted by Fiji has opened in Bonn, Germany. Former German environment minister Klaus Töpfer has argued for the conference's importance and for international action on climate change for Pacific states such as Fiji.
  • Radio New Zealand reports on the lack of female representation, voting and enrolment irregularities, violence and corruption in this year's elections in PNG:

*Due to an editorial error, these two points were originally combined.

Cleaning up the Manus damage

Last Tuesday saw the official closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, the Australian-funded and managed detention centre for unauthorised boat arrivals in Papua New Guinea.

Originally opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government’s Pacific Solution, the centre was closed by the Rudd government in 2008, before being reopened by the Gillard government in 2012. The agreement with PNG was expanded by Rudd in 2013 to increase the centre’s capacity and include the potential resettlement of refugees in PNG. The controversial program has been the epicentre of tensions between the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments over the last four years – the tension has only escalated in the week following its closure.

Nearly 600 men remain inside the centre refusing to leave despite essential services such as water, power, food and medical supplies being cut off. The Australian government maintains that the men must move to accommodation centres in the main town of Lorengau, but they refuse to go due to safety concerns outside of the centre and uncertainty over what actions, if any, the two governments will take. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) officials have visited the alternative accommodation and reported that these centres are still under construction and the men cannot be housed there.

The centre’s closure was prompted by the PNG Supreme Court’s ruling in April 2016 that its operation was unconstitutional, as it breached detainee rights to personal liberty and freedom. The governments of Australia and PNG set the closure date in May 2017, however preparations for the closure have been inadequate. Ministers from each country are pointing the finger at the other to take responsibility for the welfare of the asylum seekers on Manus Island.

The UNHCR has warned that the situation will become a humanitarian crisis if not addressed soon. The treatment of the asylum seekers on Manus has been questioned repeatedly – following a lawsuit, the Australian Government agreed to pay $70 million in compensation to 1,905 men who had been detained at the centre. There have been reports of physical and sexual abuse, negligent medical treatment and inadequate mental health services. The suffering of those detained inside the centre, the majority of whom have been found to be refugees, is well documented.

Damage to the Australia-PNG relationship

Manus Island has featured more prominently in Australia’s headlines than any other Pacific issue over the last four years. But these stories paint a narrow and unfailingly negative picture of PNG, a country of approximately eight million people and one of the most ethno-linguistically diverse in the world, with nearly 800 languages.

PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbour, former colony and one of Australia’s most important bilateral partners. Australia gives approximately half a billion dollars of aid to PNG annually, making it Australia’s largest aid recipient. In 2015, then-DFAT Secretary Peter Varghese said that ‘perhaps more than any other single relationship the state of our relationship with PNG is seen as a barometer of Australian foreign policy success’.

PNG also faces stark development challenges, which many Australians don’t fully appreciate. As Papua New Guinean politician Allan Bird wrote at the time of the PNG Supreme Court ruling last year, Papua New Guineans are focused on meeting their day-to-day needs – food, medicine and other basic services that their government doesn’t provide. As a consequence, argues Bird, ‘most in PNG don’t care about Manus’. Humanitarian crises in PNG, such as the drought in the highlands in 2015-2016 that affected hundreds of thousands of people, receive little attention in Australia outside of the development community.

Australia’s aid program to PNG prioritises good governance yet, as Jenny Hayward-Jones argues, the Manus Island detention centre has constrained Australia from criticising the PNG Government over issues such as the corruption scandal that continues to plague PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

PNG and Manus Island have been portrayed as ‘hell holes’ by international media and refugee advocates for different reasons. The Australian Government’s policy succeeds because the hell-hole message deters refugees and asylum seekers from attempting to travel to Australia by boat. Men in the Manus Island detention centre have experienced violence at the hands of Papua New Guineans (both security officials and local Manusians), and these stories are a key focus of refugee advocacy campaigns. While this violence is a serious concern and warrants our attention, Australians should also recognise the Manusians who are trying to help the refugees by bringing them food and supplies.     

Absent from much of the media coverage is the impact the centre has had on the communities of Manus Island. Traditional social structures are vital to the lives of Manusians. The PNG Government’s lack of capacity to deliver basic services mean people must be largely self-reliant. The initial agreement between Australia and PNG to establish the centre stated that there ‘would be broader benefit for communities in which transferees are initially placed’. The island has received an increased share of Australia’s aid to PNG and there has been a short-term spike in economic activity on the island as a result of the centre.

But how long lasting are these benefits? And do they outweigh the disruption the centre has brought to Manus? In 2014, Jo Chandler wrote about how the centre had irrevocably changed Manus Island. She reported incidents such as the death of a 17-year-old local boy in 2014 in a car accident involving PNG’s notorious mobile police squad as a result of the centre. There have also been incidents of violence against Manusians perpetrated by detainees, such as the sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in January this year.   

Time to clean up the mess

The Australian Government has often characterised the offshore processing arrangement with PNG and Nauru as a regional or burden-sharing arrangement, but the capacity of developing Pacific nations to burden-share is highly unequal to that of wealthy Australia. Styled in this way, it is likely to be misunderstood by most Australians who have less awareness of development challenges in the Pacific.

Peter Browne, the editor of Inside Story, argues that the policy was based on a false reading of Australian anxiety about the numbers of asylum seekers arriving by boat on our shores. Both sides of politics in Australia appear to approach the issue on the basis that ‘stopping the boats’ is a hit with voters but the 2017 Lowy Institute Poll found that opinions are divided. On the question of where to settle asylum seekers currently housed in offshore processing centres on Manus Island or Nauru, 48% say they ‘should never be settled in Australia’ – but 45% say they should.

New Zealand has offered to take some of the refugees but Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that Australia's focus is on the refugee transfer deal with the US. A long-term solution needs to be found soon – continual uncertainty is harrowing not just to the refugees and asylum seekers inside the centre, but also to Manusians, and is damaging Australia-PNG relations and Australia’s international reputation.

Photo by Flickr user Nicolas Raymond.

Pacific island links: Solomon Islands leadership, NZ and Tokelau, Tsai Ing-wen and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is facing a vote of no-confidence next week. A total of 18 MPs, including nine ministers, defected from the government over the weekend, saying they have lost faith in Sogavare’s leadership. Minister Stanley Sofu, who did not defect, has speculated that the move may be connected to a recently reintroduced anti-corruption bill.
  • Australia’s detention centre on Manus Island closed yesterday afternoon, but hundreds of refugees remain there and are protesting the move to new accommodation amid rising tensions between detainees, local residents and the police.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that he will visit New Caledonia some time before May 2018, as the island heads to a referendum on independence later that year.
  • On the DevPolicy blog, Michelle Nayahamui Rooney writes about the death of PNG journalist Rosalyn Albaniel Evara last week and how PNG’s communities and government are responding to gender-based violence.
  • An enquiry into New Zealand’s close relationship with Tokelau has been called for as leaked documents show the dependent territory suffers from a plethora of institutional problems, despite New Zealand giving more than NZ$16 million to the territory annually.
  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has begun her Pacific visit in the Marshall Islands, announcing a visa waiver agreement between Taiwan and six of its Pacific allies.

Pacific island links: Manus closure, Evara's death, caretaker mode in New Caledonia and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • With the Manus Island Detention Centre set to close at the end of the month, hundreds of remaining asylum seekers and refugees will be moved to government-run accommodation and hotels until they are settled in either the US or Papua New Guinea.
  • The death of the Post-Courier's Business Editor Rosalyn Albaniel Evara, allegedly a result of domestic violence, has brought national attention to the issue of gender-based violence in PNG.
  • For the third time, New Caledonia's cabinet has failed to elect a new president, leaving the government in caretaker mode. The sole candidate Philippe Germain was unsuccessful in gaining the support of the 11-member cabinet, which is split between pro- and anti-independence groups.
  • While the residents of Vanuatu's Ambae Island have started to return to their villages as the threat of volcanic activity subsides, Tinakula volcano in the Solomon Islands has begun to erupt. ABC's Pacific Beat spoke with Chris Bone from OceansWatch on the risk of ash from the volcano contaminating fresh water supplies.
  • Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has reintroduced an anti-corruption bill into Parliament, after its withdrawal in August was heavily criticised and led to mass protests.
  • On the DevPolicy blog, Benjamin Sims looks at the implementation of the Paris Agreement in the Pacific and how states can achieve their nationally determined contribution targets as well as sustainable development.
  • The World Health Organization says that rates of child mortality and common communicable diseases remain some of the highest in the world, and that improving primary healthcare and service delivery, especially for rural communities, is critical to improving its health indicators:

Pacific island links: PNG politics, Ambae, Tsai’s visit and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Pacific Islands Program.

  • Sam Basil, leader of the Pangu Pati, has been appointed a Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Energy in the PNG Government, several weeks after he defected from opposition. PNG opposition MP Bryan Kramer has authored a frank assessment of why Basil made the move.
  • Vanuatu's Ambae volcano appears to have calmed, with the government suggesting that 11,000 evacuees could be repatriated to the island within a month. UNICEF's Andrew Parker spoke with Radio New Zealand about the logistical challenges of organising the return of residents.
  • James Batley and Meg Keen investigate the development of 'national survival strategies' in the small island states of Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati and potential political, social and economic reform.
  • The Lowy Institute's Aus-PNG Network spoke with former Editor of the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier Alex Rheeney on the Australia-PNG relationship and the media landscape in PNG.
  • Tonga's national broadcaster TBC has come under fire for moving senior journalists out of the newsroom. The move has been criticised as gagging journalists critical of the government, but TBC claims the move is due to financial constraints.
  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has announced her first visit to the Pacific, stopping at the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands towards the end of October. Six of the 20 nations that recognise Taiwan are located in the Pacific.
  • Ruthy Cletus is an elementary school teacher in Lae in PNG helping to teach adults to read and write. Adult literacy in PNG is estimated to be only 64%.

Pacific lsland links: Nauru recession looms, PNG police, Manus movie and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program.

  •  ABC Radio National has investigated the deportation of 77 Chinese nationals from Fiji by uniformed Chinese police in August. The group was accused of online gambling fraud but the two-part investigation suggests they were sex workers for the Chinese diaspora in Fiji. A summary of Part 1 is here, the full program here and Part 2 here.
  • As evacuations from the Ambae volcanic eruption continue in Vanuatu, Dan McGarry reflects on how ni-Vanuatu people have mobilised to help those displaced.
  • Radio National New Zealand reports on politics and policing in Papua New Guinea in the wake of the national election.
  • A French appeals court has ordered former French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse and 12 others to repay $US3.3 million spent on phantom jobs to benefit Flosse’s Tahoera’a Huiraatira Party.
  • The World Bank has warned Nauru risks recession next year if it does not diversify its economy. The island nation relies heavily on its dwindling phosphate resources and Australia’s regional refugee processing centre.
  • A movie secretly shot by refugee Behrouz Boochani inside the Manus Island detention centre, Chauka, Please Tell us the Time, premiered at the London Film Festival.
  • The Development Policy Centre at ANU in Canberra is recruiting a Research/Policy Fellow to work on relevant research on economic development in PNG and the Pacific.

Technology, transparency and coordination in aid delivery

This post was co-authored with Jacob Stone, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program.

On 12 August 2017, the Australian government announced it would invest $7.7 million in a pilot program to target mosquito-borne diseases in Fiji, Vanuatu and Kiribati. This project comes out of DFAT’s InnovationXChange and speaks to a broader, global mandate where donors are doing ‘more with less’ by trying to make smarter investment decisions with finite aid budgets.

The InnovationXChange was launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in 2015 to help come up with new and cost-effective ways to deliver aid. To date, InnovationXChange projects include efforts to improve nutrition outcomes, increase efficiency in medical supply chain management, and boost investment in the water sector. However, as well as experimenting in new modalities and methods of aid delivery, consideration should also be given to using  InnovationXChange to improve how Australian aid is reported and disseminated. 

Transparency – critical for aid effectiveness

In theory, effective aid delivery should be  at the core of any development project. In practise, the effectiveness of foreign aid can be hampered by many variables including: the political context of the recipient country; the commercial or geo-political objectives of the donor; the changing scope of a project; personnel; management; and so on.

A donor’s ability to coordinate with other agencies can also impede aid effectiveness. Without clear and open communication, donors run the risk of crowding each other out and duplication. Critics argue that this results in huge administrative costs for both donors and recipients, and this lack of coordination can be especially detrimental for developing nations that have limited capacity to deal with potentially hundreds of uncoordinated donor agencies. There are dozens of bilateral agencies, hundreds of multilateral agencies, and thousands of NGOs working in the development space. As more developing countries begin to elevate themselves from recipient to donor status, the challenge of coordinating donors is growing.

With the emergence of new donors along with new and old competing geopolitical interests, the international aid community must focus its resources on mitigating high transaction costs and finding new ways to foster coordination between donors. For now, the main mechanisms used by donors to coordinate are roundtable meetings and bilateral discussions. These are time demanding, and often inefficient. A far better approach, that can be facilitated through new technologies, is increasing the transparency of donor’s aid programs.

Aid transparency refers to improving public access to detailed project-level information. A comprehensive, easily accessible picture of donor aid activities would radically improve the challenges of coordination and help governments allocate aid budgets more effectively and efficiently. It would also be a critical tool in making donors more accountable. Right now we live with poor aid transparency, characterised by untimely, incomplete and un-insightful data, which makes it difficult for the international aid community to know who is doing what, where and why.

Donors have made efforts to improve the effectiveness of foreign aid. Through the Paris Declaration (2005), the Accra Agenda for Action (2008) and most recently the endorsement of the Busan Partnership for Development Effectiveness (2011), there has been widespread support for improving existing reporting mechanisms and improving cooperation. There is a lot of ground to make up given donors have traditionally reported their activities to the OECD on a two-year time delay cycle, making it difficult to provide timely and detailed analysis on aid flows. The information reported to the OECD lists all projects underway but is difficult to access and often does not provide the detail that stakeholders seek.

The International Aid and Transparency Initiative, launched in 2008 and adopted as a global open data standard in 2011, attempts to improve on these shortfalls in OECD reporting. The IATI registry can be updated on a daily basis and requires more detailed activity-level information, such as geo-coding information, detailed transaction descriptions, and in-depth sector categorisation. It is considered the new gold standard in data reporting. IATI’s end goal  is to make every possible detail of  aid transactions available in real-time to any stakeholder. This would revolutionise aid effectiveness and donor coordination, however, it is a voluntary reporting mechanism, and take-up by various donors has been mixed.

Trends in aid transparency

The Aid Transparency Index uses the IATI data to gauge donor agencies performance in reporting to the registry. Multilateral institutions such as the Asian Development Bank and World Bank dominate the top 10 for 2016, with the UK, US and Sweden also featuring prominently, as they have almost completely incorporated the IATI standard into their own internal reporting. Australia, on the other hand, continues to rank in the middle of the pack; placing 25th out of 46 donors measured by the index.

Clearly there is a lot more work to go to get donors to buy into the transparency revolution. Whilst the uptake of the IATI standard is positive, there are still many donors who have not adopted it – especially new donors. Getting more to adhere to the IATI standard should continue to be the focus of the international development community.   

But this won’t be enough. Equally as important as having the information available is making it accessible for the everyday user in a coherent and appealing fashion. The challenge for donors and recipients is to develop ways to broadcast this data to a wider audience.

Using technology for better outcomes

Interactive maps charting donor and recipient aid flows are becoming increasingly popular in the development sector. Major donors are jumping ahead. The US has recently launched its ForeignAssistance interface, while the UK has also rolled out its own DevelopmentTracker. The Lowy Institute has also made its own foray into this space, releasing the Chinese aid in the Pacific map in 2015. There are even efforts underway to display information from all donors, drawing on what is already available from the IATI database. While these are all welcome, none provide a comprehensive and timely picture of aid in a way that will revolutionise donor coordination and aid effectiveness. 

Technology is not a panacea, but it can play a key role in improving transparency. By using better reporting mechanisms, donors will be able to do more with less because greater transparency will also improve coordination, make investments more efficient, and ultimately more accountable.  

Australia has a long way to go in improving aid transparency. Considering Australian aid is now at its lowest levels since data was first recorded in the 1960s, Australia won’t be a leader when it comes to the volume of aid any time soon. But it can lead by example in other ways and a good start would be to bring its reporting standards into 2017. InnovationXChange is a welcome beginning but we need to extend this embrace of technology to all facets of aid including transparency and reporting. This is how we can stretch aid dollars even further.

Pacific island links: Ambae evacuation, violence in Mendi, French Polynesia and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program.

  • Vanuatu has completed the evacuation of 11,000 residents from Ambae Island as the Manaro volcano threatens to erupt. ABC’s Pacific Beat spoke with Red Cross aid workers on the massive operation and the future for the island’s residents.
  • A Sri Lankan asylum seeker died on Manus in PNG, the sixth since 2013.
  • The incumbent Governor William Powi was declared the winner in Southern Highlands province, the final seat to be declared three months after the PNG elections.
  • The delayed declaration has resulted in a new eruption of violence in Mendi, the capital of Southern Highlands province, with businesses linked to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill torched.
  • The Cook Islands’ controversial move from developing to developed nation, becoming one of only three in the Pacific to reach this status, has been delayed by the OECD until 2018 because of lack of data. The move would mean that the nation would lose US$51m in Overseas Development Assistance grants, which some suggest would make it more vulnerable during times of economic and environmental disaster.
  • French Polynesian pro-independence leaders are arguing for independence at the UN’s decolonisation committee meetings in New York. The territory was placed onto the UN decolonisation list in 2013, but anti-independence President Edouard Fritch is advocating for its removal. France has boycotted the meeting altogether.

Lessons from the PNG elections

This is the fourth of several articles for The Interpreter by Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow and former long-term Papua New Guinea correspondent, Sean Dorney who was in PNG for the elections as part of the Commonwealth's PNG Election Observer Mission. You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

During the annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Apia earlier this month, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland presented PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill with the Commonwealth Observer Group's report on the election.

The report recommends that the PNG government accept outside help to conduct an 'urgent review and lessons learned process' to help ensure there are fewer problems at the next elections in 2022. The Commonwealth Secretariat is offering to provide 'strong support' to this 'lessons learned' process, in collaboration with Papua New Guinea's other development partners.

Among a host of issues identified as 'significant challenges' by the Group was the large number of names missing from the electoral roll. As the Group's Chair and former New Zealand Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand writes in his letter to Scotland at the head of the report, 'An accurate and credible electoral roll is at the heart of a credible election process.'

The Group expressed its sadness at 'reports of election related violence during the counting period in the Highlands region which resulted in the loss of lives, including some members of the Police'. It also lamented that 'not a single woman was elected to the Parliament in the 2017 election'.

The report's 38 recommendations include that the PNG Electoral Commission should be provided with timely and adequate funding; the Commission should strengthen its working relationship with the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission to foster greater trust in elections; the Government should consider temporary special measures to ensure some representation by women in the Parliament; and that the thousands of security personnel engaged in the election be given the opportunity to vote before being deployed.

The Group did find some positive aspects, such as 'the high voter turnout and enthusiasm by the people to participate in their democratic process'. Now that the figures are finally becoming available, the extent of that high voter turnout can be calculated – it throws up some fascinating and disturbing results.

The Australian economist Paul Flanagan (who writes a regular blog on PNG issues) has already raised questions about the turnout (145%) in Tari in the Hela Province in the Highlands. This seat, the first to be declared, was won by James Marape from Peter O'Neill's People's National Congress party.

I have been able to get final figures for valid votes in 80 of the 89 Open seats in the PNG Parliament – Tari was not the only seat where more people voted than were on the copies of the Electoral Commission's electoral roll for Open electorates provided to election observers before the poll.

There was a 115% turnout in Imbonggu in the Southern Highlands, while it was 103% in O'Neill's seat of Ialibu-Pangia. Okapa in the Eastern Highlands and Chauve in Chimbu both recorded a perfect 100% turnout. The Highlands province of Chimbu had an average turnout of 97%. The six Chimbu seats were remarkably similar: Chuave at 100%; Gumine at 94%; Karimui Nomane at 99%; Kerowagi at 98%; Kundiawa at 94%; and Sinasina Yonggamugl at 97%. 

Throughout the Highlands, the Open seat turnout averaged 94%. Voting is not compulsory in PNG.

Outside of the Highlands, where five seats recorded more votes than there were voters on the roll, there was only one other seat where that occured. This was Nawe, in the Morobe Province, where there were 33,813 voters on the roll but 44,080 valid votes were counted; a 130% turnout.

My calculations for the respective turnouts in the four regions are: Highlands 94%; Momase 79%; Papua 68%; and the New Guinea Islands 64%. Of the provinces, East New Britain had the lowest turnout at 56%, while the National Capital District was not much higher at 60%.

There are obviously big problems in the Highlands, where tribal and cultural issues continue to have a major impact on how elections are run. The Commonwealth observers who went to the Highlands reported that bloc voting was a major feature at almost every polling station they visited. They said that in many polling stations voters were given multiple ballot papers by polling officials, often at the voter's insistence that they were authorised to vote for absent family members. In Goroka, they witnessed polling officials at the end of the day (after voting was finished) crossing names off the roll to match the number of votes that had been cast earlier. And in the Jiwaka Province, they saw voters who had several fingers inked, indicating that they had voted multiple times.

Not all of PNG's electoral problems can be solved before 2022, but a thorough examination of lessons from the 2017 elections is definitely the best way to start.

Pacific links: IMF visits PNG, French Polynesia’s nuke claim, Honiara protests and more

By Euan Moyle, an intern in the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program.

  • Australia will open a new detention centre in Papua New Guinea once the Manus Island detention centre closes in October to house around 200 men whose asylum claims have been rejected. About 100 have already agreed to voluntarily return to their home countries.
  • Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull has confirmed 50 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru will settle in the United States in the first stage of its agreement to take up to 1250 refugees from the two detention centres.
  • The Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court, has been advised to reject French Polynesia’s compensation claim for victims of nuclear testing after hopes were renewed during the recent Presidential elections. The court will decide on the case within a month.
  • The IMF has issued a press release summarising its recent Article IV visit to PNG, where short-term economic challenges remain severe. The PNG government is taking action, with Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel announcing an 80% cut to the controversial DSIP and PSIP constituency funds.
  • ABC shortwave radio services in the Pacific may be revived after a package of media reforms was passed in the Senate, with a full review of Asia Pacific broadcasting being conducted as part of the new legislation.
  • John Greenshields reflects on his experience of how vital shortwave radio services are to isolated communities in PNG.
  • Protests in Honiara have forced the Solomon Islands government to reintroduce an anti-corruption bill that was withdrawn during the last sitting of Parliament, citing the need to strengthen the legislation. Opposition groups have suggested it lacked support from government MPs.
  • Terence Wood has analysed PNG’s elections in a three-part series on the Devpolicy blog, discussing the numerous problems with the electoral process, how they can be improved, and how Australian assistance can be boosted in time for the 2022 elections.
  • PNG marked its Independence Day on Saturday, with events being held around the country. One of the most significant is the dawn Flag Raising Ceremony, held on Port Moresby’s Independence Hill, where the Australian flag was lowered and replaced by the new flag of PNG in 1975.



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