Australia congratulates the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments, and the people of Bougainville, on the successful conduct of the Referendum on the future political status of Bougainville.
The work of the independent Bougainville Referendum Commission, ably chaired by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, was integral to the credibility of the polling process.
The polling period ran from 23 November to 7 December, with over 800 polling locations in Bougainville and across Papua New Guinea, Australia and Solomon Islands: a significant achievement by the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments. I welcome in particular the effort to achieve an inclusive vote, including ensuring women and people with a disability were able to cast their vote unhindered.
Australia was pleased to be among five nations that witnessed the signature of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu also played roles. I acknowledge the valuable contribution of the 11-strong Australian Observation Mission, led by the Hon Jane Prentice. The Australian observer team’s interim assessment is that the Referendum process was free, fair and credible.
Australia was pleased to support the preparations and conduct of the Referendum, alongside the United Nations and other international partners and donors. The successful conduct of the Referendum concludes one of the three pillars of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement.
As Prime Minister Marape stated yesterday, under the Agreement, the outcome of the Referendum is non-binding and will be subject to consultations between the two governments.
Australia looks forward to continued productive engagement as the Bougainville Peace process enters its next stage.