This article appeared in the House in Review, which provides regular updates on the activities of the New South Wales Legislative Council.
The twinning program, initiated by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 2007, is designed to promote collaboration and understanding between parliaments to ensure they fulfil their legislative, representative and oversight roles.
The program links every Australian state and territory parliament with one or more Pacific parliament. Here are the linkages:
The Australian Capital Territory – Kiribati
New South Wales – Bougainville and Solomon Islands
Northern Territory – Niue
Queensland – Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu
South Australia – Tonga
Tasmania – Samoa
Victoria – Fiji, Nauru and Tuvalu
Western Australia – Cook Islands.
Over the years, twinning activities have helped our partners to navigate common challenges as they strengthen their parliaments. In turn, these relationships have offered us an invaluable opportunity to reflect on our own practices and procedures.
Bougainville House of Representatives
Bougainville is an autonomous province of Papua New Guinea, with a population of approximately 300,000. The Bougainville House of Representatives is a unicameral parliament with 41 members, including the Speaker, and has the Pacific’s only system of reserved parliamentary seats for women.
In 2019, Bougainville held a referendum on the region’s independence from Papua New Guinea – 97.7% of the votes were cast in favour of independence. As the referendum outcome is not binding, the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments have commenced a process of consultation on the outcomes.
In November 2019, two members of the Legislative Council (the Hon Shayne Mallard and the Hon Greg Donnelly) participated in an 11 member Australian team to observe the conduct of the referendum. Read about the mission here.
National Parliament of Solomon Islands
To the south east of Bougainville, Solomon Islands is comprised of a chain of islands – nearly 1000 of them across nine main groupings – with a population of approximately 700,000 people. The National Parliament, based in the capital of Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal, is made up of 50 members, including the Speaker. Visit the Parliament’s website to read more.
We’ve worked with our colleagues in the Solomons on numerous committee and procedural activities. Most recently, in July 2019, the Hon Leslie Williams MP, participated in a three-day committee workshop in the National Parliament facilitated by the National Parliament of Solomon Islands and the United Nations Development Program.
The NSW Parliament and our ‘twins’ have participated in a multitude of activities to support twinning over the past 14 years, including delegations, member inductions and joint conferences and workshops. We have really enjoyed (and very much miss) staff ‘attachments’, where officers spend some time at their twinned parliament to work on agreed priority projects.
In 2017 we produced a booklet commemorating 10 years of twinning – have a look for more examples of the results of our productive twinning activities. If you’re keen to learn more about our parliamentary partners, also stay tuned for further blog posts exploring their people and parliaments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for us all, but especially for our twinning partners. Solomon Islands has been effective in keeping COVID at bay and case numbers remain low, but the closed borders have come at a significant economic cost. Bougainville has also been able to avoid the concerning case numbers on the mainland, but even a small number of cases would overwhelm their health system. We wish them well as they steer a course through the challenges and look forward to meeting again, in person, in the not too distant future.