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Tuesday, 20 March 2007
Page: 136

Senator FAULKNER (10:47 PM) —Tonight I provide the Senate with a further report on Labor’s Australian Political Parties for Democracy, APPD, work. The ALP is committed to using the APPD program for a range of international activities, including the provision of practical training to political parties in the Asia-Pacific. In this contribution, I particularly want to report on our technical assistance programs.

Labor is building cooperative programs with the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs or NDI, the United States progressive democracy-building institute. Two senior representatives of the NDI are visiting Australia this week—Ivan Doherty, NDI’s director of political party programs, and Peter M Manikas, senior associate and regional director for Asia programs at the NDI. They will meet with the ALP’s International Party Development Committee, which I chair, tomorrow.

As part of our broad strategy of regional engagement, ALP international projects will continue to plan and deliver training activities in our region in cooperation with organisations like the NDI as well as through multilateral and bilateral programs through our international projects section. This year, three countries in our region will face national elections: the Philippines, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea. Despite each of these countries possessing functioning democratic institutions, their citizens face many challenges as they strive for better government.

We have used our partnership with the NDI to further our commitment to increasing the number of women in politics in Asia and the Pacific. Dr Lesley Clark, who recently retired as the member for Barron River in the Queensland parliament, is now a valued trainer under our APPD programs. In February of this year, Lesley flew to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, ARMM, in the southern Philippines where she gave workshops on mentoring and campaign skills to prepare women for the May elections.

Lesley has experience with EMILY’s List in Australia, in working with the ALP’s affirmative action rules in getting more women elected, as well as 15 years experience campaigning in a marginal seat in Queensland. Lesley Clark reports that ‘trapos’—traditional politicians—still wield power in the Philippines through intimidation and money politics.

The Philippines will go to the polls on 14 May this year. Since the last election, politics in the Philippines has been marked by accusations of human rights abuses and political killings. The real test for politicians of all parties will be whether or not the forthcoming national elections are again marred by violence and electoral fraud.

With Papua New Guinea’s political parties preparing for the national elections beginning on 30 June, a Labor team travelled to Port Moresby to undertake consultations with party secretariats and candidates about limited preferential voting, the LPV system. Included in the team were Michael Morgan, our director of international projects; David Fredericks, former chief of staff to Kim Beazley; and Richard Marles, a member of the International Party Development Committee and also a Labor candidate for the federal seat of Corio in the forthcoming election.

In the year 2007 will be the first national election in PNG conducted under a preferential voting system since independence in 1975. The new system is designed to encourage more accommodative behaviour between political parties and candidates, and it is part of a suite of reforms adopted in PNG in recent years. A major reform is the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates, known as the OLIPPAC. This piece of legislation is designed to limit the ability of members of parliament to change parties during the parliamentary term. It also lays down minimum requirements for party status and rules to encourage more women to run for and win office.

Despite these reforms, many Papua New Guineans fear that the coming elections will be just another exercise in money politics. Many of PNG’s parties and Independents believe that the election will be determined by a handful of wealthy party backers, who will effectively buy victory for the party they support. I can assure the Senate that, through our International Projects, we will continue to deliver training and capacity building to PNG parties as they prepare for the elections in June and July this year.

Of course, Timor Leste faces a different kind of challenge. In November 2006, an ALP delegation visited Timor Leste to gauge interest among the major political parties for technical assistance. In the aftermath of last year’s violence, and in preparation for this year’s national elections, ALP International Projects has been working to assist Timor Leste’s political parties to contest free and fair elections. We will provide a multiparty program to Timor’s main political parties in campaigning, party organisation and policy development.

To assist in this process, Gavin Ryan, who is an advisor to Senator Gavin Marshall and a member of the ALP team which visited Dili, has just completed an update of the Briefing notes on East Timor’s political parties and groupings, first undertaken by Pat Walsh for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. We will make this information publicly available in the hope that it will help people to understand a little more about the political culture of the newest nation in the region.

Most recently, we have contributed to the training of political parties in Aceh, in Indonesia. The tragedy of the December 2004 tsunamis brought the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement to the bargaining table in early 2005. The resulting agreement, signed in Helsinki in August 2005, offers the prospect of peace to a province that has experienced more than 30 years of conflict. A key component of the peace-building process is the inclusion of former combatants in the governance of Aceh.

Local elections in Aceh on 11 December 2006 were a milestone on the road to sustained peace. For the first time, those excluded from public life, including the GAM leadership—the Free Aceh Movement leadership—and former GAM combatants, were able to participate in the electoral process. Campaigning and voting were largely peaceful and the electoral victory of the independent GAM gubernatorial candidate Irwandi has been accepted by all parties.

Recognising the opportunity to institutionalise the progress made in these elections, ALP International Projects sent Terry Wood, a Queensland state ALP organiser—well known to my two colleagues in the chamber Senator McLucas and Senator Moore—to join a multinational team of trainers. We thank the NDI country office in Jakarta for their logistical support and note that the program was made possible with funds from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We also thank the Indonesian embassy for their help with visa applications. We commend Governor Irwandi and all the parties in Aceh for a peaceful and successful electoral process. Mr Deputy President, you also know of the good work undertaken by Mr Terry Wood. I look forward to reporting again to the Senate on more progress on the success of the ALP’s APPD schemes.