Bougainville vote no ‘problem’ for Australia

Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne. Picture Kym Smith

BUKA, 21 JUNE 2019 (AAP)—Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the Bougainville referendum later this year, and won’t cast judgment on the result, Foreign Minister Marise Payne says.

The autonomous region, which has a population the size of Hobart, is due to have a referendum on whether to become independent in October.

Senator Payne is in Papua New Guinea where she has met this week with newly-appointed PNG Minister for Bougainville Affairs Sir Puka Temu.

Asked whether a vote in favour of independence could present Australia with a problem, Senator Payne said no.

“I don’t think the exercise of a democratic process in one of our nearest neighbours would be described as a huge problem for Australia,” she told ABC’s AM on Thursday.

The referendum is part of a peace agreement that has been under way for some time, she stressed.

“The important things that Australia is focused on is not forming a view one way or the other on the outcome of a referendum in another country, but importantly supporting that wherever we can to ensure a credible, and a peaceful and an inclusive process,” she said.

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