Politics and the nature of the state

The nature of the state, and the role of the state in shaping security and development outcomes, has long been a focus of DPA’s scholarship. DPA continues to undertake research on state transformation in the Pacific, focusing on Melanesia. Central to this work is analysis of state–society relations, and what they mean for political order, security, and development outcomes.

Subtopics within this program of research include:

Decentralisation and the politics of service delivery Concentrating on locally driven state experimentation and reform, this research stream investigates decentralisation and the role of constituency development funds (CDFs) in PNG and Solomon Islands. The growth of CDFs and ongoing decentralisation processes lie at the heart of complex political economies in PNG and Solomon Islands, but also represent the efforts of local actors to recast the postcolonial Melanesian state. The extent to which these processes will result in more stable political orders and effective state structures is an open question central to our research inquiry: this is a longstanding challenge for Australia’s aid program in the region.

The political economy of reform

DPA is investigating how factors such as political agency, power, coalitions and institutions interact to shape reform prospects in the Pacific, and what this means for development partners seeking to support enhanced political participation. This research stream seeks to understand how civil society actors are engaging with complex policy processes, and how they might be supported.

Elections and electoral politics

Election studies provide the basis for documenting and understanding how political culture in the region is evolving, and also for assessing the impact and effectiveness of electoral system reform and its influences upon political culture, including money politics and women’s political participation. Through the PRP, DPA is building on its extensive cross-regional research on elections and providing direct insight into the motivations and experiences of candidates and voters. Our research is directly relevant to electoral management bodies and donors supporting electoral management in the region. It also contributes to our understanding of how elections shape the nature of government, governance, and political stability.

Cover of In Brief 2021/16 The Controversial Use of the Gender Quota in the 2021 Samoan General Election: A Personal Perspective – Part 1

IB 2021/16 The Controversial Use of the Gender Quota in the 2021 Samoan General Election: A Personal Perspective – Part 1

The first of this two-part In Brief series outlines the events that followed the 2021 Samoan general election and contextualises them in terms of gender norms in Samoa. Part 2 describes the gender quota that was...

Cover of In Brief 2021/17 The Controversial Use of the Gender Quota in the 2021 Samoan General Election: A Personal Perspective – Part 2

IB 2021/17 The Controversial Use of the Gender Quota in the 2021 Samoan General Election: A Personal Perspective – Part 2

The 2021 general election in Samoa was followed by a series of controversial events, including the use of the gender quota as a strategy for the incumbent government to hold onto power. The first In Brief of this two...

Cover of In Brief 2021/12 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part One: A Little-known New Leader

IB 2021/12 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part One: A Little-known New Leader

This is the first of three linked In Briefs about the record of Ishmael Toroama, elected President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (hereinafter Bougainville) in September 2020. Toroama is little known...

Cover of In Brief 2021/13 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part Two: Business and Music Activities

IB 2021/13 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part Two: Business and Music Activities

This is the second of three linked In Briefs discussing the record, the reasons for the election, and the leadership attributes of the newly elected (September 2020) President of Bougainville, Ishmael Toroama. This...

Cover of In Brief 2021/14 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part Three: A Candidate in Four Elections 2010–20

IB 2021/14 An Assessment of Bougainville’s President Toroama Part Three: A Candidate in Four Elections 2010–20

This is the third of three linked In Briefs discussing the little-known record and the leadership attributes of the newly elected (September 2020) President of Bougainville, Ishmael Toroama. This part discusses his...

Cover of IB 2021/10 The 2020 Autonomous Bougainville Government General Election: Part 1

IB 2021/10 The 2020 Autonomous Bougainville Government General Election: Part 1

This two-part In Brief explores the 2020 Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) general election. This part provides a background to the election, including the postreferendum timing and issues about constituencies...

Cover of IB 2021/11 The 2020 Autonomous Bougainville Government General Election: Part 2

IB 2021/11 The 2020 Autonomous Bougainville Government General Election: Part 2

This second In Brief in a two-part series on Bougainville’s first general election after the 2019 referendum examines the election results as well as some issues surrounding the conduct of the election. The election...

Cover of Research Report Papua New Guinea's Primary Health Care System: Views from the Frontline

Papua New Guinea's Primary Health Care System: Views from the Frontline

This report aims to provide insights into how recent PNG government reform efforts are impacting on the primary health care system. These include the introduction of a free primary health care policy, national grants...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2021/01 Fifty Years after the ‘Act of Free Choice’: The West Papua Issue in a Regional Context

DP 2021/01 Fifty Years after the ‘Act of Free Choice’: The West Papua Issue in a Regional Context

Since the early 1970s the author has followed the development of the West Papua issue, first as field director of ANU’s New Guinea Research Unit and director of the National Research Institute of Papua New Guinea,...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2020/05 Incompatible Struggles? Reclaiming Indigenous Sovereignty and Political Sovereignty in Kanaky and/or New Caledonia

DP 2020/05 Incompatible Struggles? Reclaiming Indigenous Sovereignty and Political Sovereignty in Kanaky and/or New Caledonia

The question of sovereignty in Kanaky and/or New Caledonia has been the central political issue for the people of the archipelago for nearly five decades. Over that period, the idea of restitution has matured for the...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2020/04 The Role of the United Nations in New Caledonia’s Process of Self-Determination

DP 2020/04 The Role of the United Nations in New Caledonia’s Process of Self-Determination (translated from the original French version)

This Discussion Paper arises from the June 2019 PIPSA (Pacific Islands Political Studies Association) conference with the theme of ‘Democracy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination in the Pacific Islands’. Held in...

Cover of In Brief 2020/31 The Role of Social Media in New Caledonia’s Referendums on Self-determination

IB 2020/31 The Role of Social Media in New Caledonia’s Referendums on Self-determination

The French Pacific collectivity of New Caledonia has held two referendums on its political status under the 1998 Noumea Accord, on 4 November 2018 and 4 October 2020. Both referendums saw a majority of registered...

Cover of In Brief 2020/30 Voter Experiences during Bougainville’s 2019 Independence Referendum

IB 2020/30 Voter Experiences during Bougainville’s 2019 Independence Referendum

This In Brief sets out the results of the independence referendum in Bougainville, held between 23 November and 7 December 2019, and presents the findings of research undertaken on a range of administrative...

Cover of In Brief 2020/28 Approaches to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Papua New Guinea: Government Measures and Public Responses

IB 2020/28 Approaches to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Papua New Guinea: Government Measures and Public Responses

This In Brief captures the general perceptions and mood of a sample of Papua New Guineans during the state of emergency (SOE) imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Papua New Guinea (PNG). A short questionnaire was...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2020/04 L’ONU au service du processus d’émancipation de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

DP 2020/04 L’ONU au service du processus d’émancipation de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

La présence de l’ONU à l’occasion de la seconde consultation d’autodétermination de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, prévue par l’Accord de Nouméa du 5 mai 1998, le 4 octobre prochain est l’occasion de revenir sur l’action de...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2020/03 Politics in Papua New Guinea 2017–20: From O’Neill to Marape

DP 2020/03 Politics in Papua New Guinea 2017–20: From O’Neill to Marape

The author has been chronicling the politics of Papua New Guinea (PNG) for decades, and this Discussion Paper constitutes the most recent instalment in that body of work. It is hoped this account of the politics in...

Cover of In Brief 2020/24 The Competing Perceptions of Jakarta and Papua towards the Special Autonomy Law

IB 2020/24 The Competing Perceptions of Jakarta and Papua towards the Special Autonomy Law

The historical roots of special autonomy in Papua can be traced back to two major events. The first was a meeting of 100 Papuan representatives with President Habibie in Jakarta on 26 February 1999, and the second...

Cover of Working Paper 2020/05 Self-Determination and Electoral Geography in New Caledonia: Political Stasis or Independence?

WP 2020/05 Self-Determination and Electoral Geography in New Caledonia: Political Stasis or Independence?

Only six months after the first referendum on selfdetermination on 4 November 2018, New Caledonians were invited to vote in provincial elections on 12 May 2019.

Cover of Discussion Paper 2020/02 Preparing for the Referendum: Research into the Bougainville Peace Agreement Telephone Information Hotline

DP 2020/02 Preparing for the Referendum: Research into the Bougainville Peace Agreement Telephone Information Hotline

In late 2019, the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea voted in a referendum that offered two choices: greater autonomy or independence. The referendum was required by the Bougainville...

Cover of In Brief 2020/21 Circumventing the Tender Process: Why PNG Should Be Cautious with the Administration of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Funds

IB 2020/21 Circumventing the Tender Process: Why PNG Should Be Cautious with the Administration of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Funds

Under normal circumstances, the Public Finance Management Act 1995 (PFMA) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) mandates rigorous tendering processes to safeguard the proper use of public monies. To deal with the COVID-19...

Cover of In Brief 2020/20 Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Papua Province: An Increase in Case Numbers and the Challenges Ahead

IB 2020/20 Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Papua Province: An Increase in Case Numbers and the Challenges Ahead

Though some provinces in Indonesia have seen a decline in new COVID-19 cases or begun to show signs of stabilisation, others’ numbers continue to increase. Papua Province is experiencing a daily increase in positive...

Cover of In Brief 2020/19 Constituency Development Funds and Electoral Politics in Solomon Islands: Part Two

IB 2020/19 Constituency Development Funds and Electoral Politics in Solomon Islands: Part Two

The ANU Department of Pacific Affairs ran a large-scale election observation exercise in Solomon Islands prior to, during and following national elections held on 3 April 2019. Observations were conducted in 15 of...

Cover of In Brief IB 2020/18 Constituency Development Funds and Electoral Politics in Solomon Islands: Part One

IB 2020/18 Constituency Development Funds and Electoral Politics in Solomon Islands: Part One

The ANU Department of Pacific Affairs ran a large-scale election observation exercise in Solomon Islands prior to, during and following national elections held on 3 April 2019. Observations were conducted in 15 of...

in brief

IB 2020/15 COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Papua New Guinea: The State of Emergency Cannot Fix Years of Negligence

This In Brief argues that PNG’s reliance on the State of Emergency and lockdowns to contain COVID-19 is proving difficult due to years of government negligence that have led to both poor health infrastructure and...

in brief

IB 2020/14 What We Can Learn from Provincial Governments in Solomon Islands: A Personal Perspective — Part 2: Using Provincial Revenue for Peace and Localised Solutions

This is the second In Brief about what we can learn from provincial governments in Solomon Islands. Both papers draw heavily on the author’s experiences of working as the legal adviser to the Ministry of Provincial...

in brief

IB 2020/13 What We Can Learn From Provincial Governments in Solomon Islands: A Personal Perspective — Part 1: Local Recruitment

The problems of Solomon Islands’ provincial governments have been the subject of political investigations, with stories of their corruption regularly run in the country’s two daily national newspapers. Rarely is...

in brief

IB 2020/08 Emergency Toll-Free Telephone Services Part 1: Challenging Contexts

In developed countries, emergency services such as the police can be telephoned during time-critical incidents. Response times are generally good, depending on competing simultaneous demands. By contrast, emergency...

in brief

IB 2020/09 Emergency Toll-Free Telephone Services Part 2: A Police Line in Papua New Guinea

This In Brief presents a case study of a toll-free police telephone service that has been established in Papua New Guinea (PNG). A companion piece (Part 1) outlined some of the key challenges encountered when setting...

WP 2020/01 National Development Plans in PNG — How They Measure Up Against the National Goals and Directive Principles

This paper revisits the development models promoted in recent national plans in PNG, the influences that framed their ambitious visions and their compatibility with the earlier NGDPs. Learning from the failed...

2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections Observation Report

2019 Solomon Islands National General Elections Observation Report

The ANU, through the Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA), conducted a large-scale observation of the election comprising 90 observers, 77 of whom were Solomon Islanders. The observation covered almost a third of the...

IB 2019/27 Attitudes Towards Women’s Political Participation in Solomon Islands

The ANU’s Department of Pacific Affairs ran a large-scale election observation exercise in Solomon Islands prior to, during and following national elections held on 3 April 2019. Observations were conducted in 15 of...

IB 2019/26 How Trade Unions Explain the Development of Two-Party Systems in the Caribbean but not the Pacific

This In Brief explains how trade unions and their impact on party organisation are key to explaining how the Caribbean has two-party systems, but the Pacific does not. The absence of party system institutionalisation...

in brief

IB 2019/21 The Voter as Commodity: The Phenomenon of Cross-border Voter Registration in Solomon Islands

The ANU’s Department of Pacific Affairs ran a large-scale election observation exercise in Solomon Islands prior to, during and following national elections held on 3 April 2019. Observations were conducted in 15 of...

DP

DP 2019/03 The Search for Democracy in Fiji

This Discussion Paper is the third of a trilogy written after the November 2018 election in Fiji. The first, In Brief 2018/28, considered the consequences of how reporting the results using competing media outlets...

The Bougainville Referendum: Law, Administration and Politics

This book presents an analysis of legal, administrative and political issues arising from the complex arrangements for the conduct of the Bougainville referendum. The first purpose of this book is to promote a better...

DP 2019/02 Modernising Tradition: Elections, Parties and Land in Fiji

Is the FijiFirst government the epitome of modernity and SODELPA banking on returning to the past? In discussing land policy, indigenous rights, accumulation and need, Scott MacWilliam’s analysis shows how things are...

IB 2019/06 Perceptions of Peacebuilding in Solomon Islands Post-RAMSI

This In Brief is based on the National Perceptions Survey on Peacebuilding for Solomon Islands commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme under a United Nations Peacebuilding Fund project implemented by...

In Brief

IB 2018/32 Governance, Ethics and Leadership in Papua New Guinea — A Personal Perspective Part 1

This two-part series is based on a speech given on 28 May 2018 at the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Parliament of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

In this paper, the author talks...

IB 2018/28 Commerce and Confusion: Reporting the 2018 Fiji Election Results

Elections provide extensive commercial opportunities. Campaign material including banners; articles of clothing; advertising in newspapers and on television, radio and electronic media; transportation and providing...

In Brief

IB 2018/26 Anticipating the 2019 Solomon Islands Elections

Solomon Islands is expected to hold national elections in March 2019, the first since the departure of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in June 2017. This In Brief highlights a number of...

Discussion Paper

DP 2018/08 Exploring the Kanak Vote on the Eve of New Caledonia’s Independence Referendum

The referendum of self-determination in New Caledonia will take place on 4 November 2018. Sought by the pro-independence cause since the 1980s, successive political agreements —Matignon-Oudinot in 1988, then Noumea...

Discussion Paper

DP 2018/05 The Bougainville Referendum Arrangements: Origins, Shaping and Implementation Part Two: Shaping and Implementation

Having considered the origins and aspects of the shaping of the referendum arrangements in the first of these paired Discussion Papers, this paper presents an overview of the arrangements for the referendum as set...

Discussion Paper

DP 2018/04 The Bougainville Referendum Arrangements: Origins, Shaping and Implementation Part One: Origins and Shaping

The Bougainville Peace Agreement (the BPA) is a complex agreement, produced by a succession of compromises made during more than two years of often intense negotiations (June 1999 to August 2001), directed towards...

Discussion Paper

DP 2018/03: New Caledonia and Bougainville: Towards a New Political Status?

Over the next few years, major political — and possibly constitutional — changes can be expected in two of Australia’s closest neighbours, as New Caledonia and Bougainville move towards a new political status. Both...

DPA in brief image

IB 2018/16 The New Caledonian Referendum on Independence (Part 3): Key Issues

On 4 November 2018, eligible New Caledonian voters will participate in a referendum on whether the territory will become independent from France. President Emmanuel Macron made his first visit to the territory on 3–5...

DPA In Brief Series

IB2018/07 The New Caledonian Referendum on Independence (Part 2): The Vote

This In Brief outlines the main aspects of the referendum on independence in New Caledonia, officially called the ‘consultation on the exit of the Noumea Accord’. It considers the referendum question, its timing and...

IB image

IB 2018/4 Research into Constituency Development Funds in Solomon Islands

This In-Brief provides an overview of a current research project that is examining how constituency development funds are managed in Solomon Islands. It describes the context for the research, the approach taken to...

DPA In Brief

IB2017/40 The New Caledonian Referendum on Independence Part 1: Historical Origins

In November 2018, the territorial community of New Caledonia will determine whether to become an independent state or remain under French sovereignty. With less than one year to the vote, there are details yet to be...

DPA In Brief

IB2017/37 Parliamentary Elections and Government Formation in PNG and Timor-Leste — a Study in Contrasts

Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste both have new coalition governments following mid-year parliamentary elections, but the processes that produced them and the outcomes could not be more dissimilar. While PNG’s...

DPA In Brief

IB2017/35 Examining Border-Crossers at the Indonesia–PNG Border Post in Skouw, Jayapura, Papua

This In Brief describes a recent, localised pilot study on the Skouw border post in Jayapura, Indonesia. The study, undertaken to shed light on the reasons why residents of Indonesia and PNG cross the border, could...

Samoa Election Report 20162016 Samoa Election Domestic Observation Report

2016 Samoa Election Domestic Observation Report

On Friday 4 March 2016, Samoa conducted its 15th general election since independence in 1962. The 2016 general election was particularly significant because of three key constitutional or electoral amendments enacted...

SSGM Discussion Paper

DP2017/6 Papua New Guinea under the O’Neill Government: Has There Been a Shift in Political Style?

In 2011–12 Papua New Guinea suffered its most serious constitutional crisis since independence, when the incumbent prime minister, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, was effectively removed from office in a ‘political...

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/13 Suspension of Opposition MPs in Fiji’s Parliament

Fiji’s new parliament that emerged in 2014 after eight years of military rule revived the prospects for parliamentary democracy in that country. However, concerns have been raised about the suspension of Opposition...

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/10 Timor-Leste’s Presidential Election: Several Firsts, but no Generational Change

The original version of this In Brief was first published on 29 March 2017 under a Creative Commons Licence by the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/8 Political Instability Reforms in Melanesia — Addressing a Problem or a Symptom?

Political instability, in the form of frequent motions of no confidence, has become a major source of concern in the years after independence in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Constitutional and...

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/6 Choosing Our Leaders: Western Electoral Systems versus Traditional Leadership Selection in the Pacific Islands — A Personal Perspective

Commentaries in various internet sites and social media Facebook pages have been increasingly critical of the quality of political leadership across the Pacific islands region. The Facebook page ‘Forum Solomon...

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