25 Apr 2003

Australia agrees to fund helicopters during PNG election

3:15 pm on 25 April 2003

Australia is to give Papua New Guinea nearly three quarters of a million US dollars to help pay for the use of helicopters during the second attempt at elections in the Southern Highlands.

Polling is due to commence tomorrow in the province, where armed bandits and cheats destroyed the vote last year, forcing the disqualification of six of the nine Southern Highlands electorates.

Australia's new grant to PNG comes just months after AusAID's own review team admitted its four and a quarter million US dollar support for the 2002 national poll was largely a waste of taxpayer funds.

Australia says the new funds would be used to assist the government's delivery of effective electoral administration by ensuring ballot boxes, police and electoral officials can be moved quickly and safely by helicopter around the province.

The PNG government's failure to pay helicopter companies on time contributed to last year's electoral chaos, as did poor planning and bad weather.