Australia ups contribution to polls reform in M'sia as Aussies vote at High Comm


KUALA LUMPUR: Australia has increased its contribution to UNDP's electoral reform assistance project in Malaysia from RM1.8mil to RM3mil.

Its High Commissioner to Malaysia, Andrew Goledzinowski (pic), announced the additional contribution of A$400,000 (RM1.2mil) when briefing Malaysian delegates who were invited to observe overseas Australians participating in their federal polls on May 18.

The UNDP is working with the Malaysian Election Commission and the Electoral Reform Committee to reform the electoral system in the country.

Goledzinowski said Malaysia and Australia had democracy as a shared value, "placing importance on the right to vote".

Among those present at the Australian High Commission were electoral reform special committee chief executive Ameerul Muner Mohammad, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong and Dewan Rakyat secretary Datuk Roosme Hamzah.

Also present were UNDP representatives and Election Commission staff.

"Today's event is a celebration of Australia's democratic system.

"Regardless of who you support, elections are always conducted in a spirit of warmth and friendliness at the voting centers, and today's event is an expression of that," said Goledzinowski.

About 80,000 Australians abroad were expected to cast their votes during a two-week voting period, with the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur being one of the 90-odd overseas polling centres.

In total, the Australian High Commission shipped 5.5 tonnes of election materials worldwide for its designated polling centres.

Australia has made it mandatory for citizens aged 18 and above to vote. About 96.8% of eligible new voters registered, accounting for an additional 750,000 new electorates for the current election.

About 1,000 Australians cast their ballots at the High Commission premises over the last two weeks (advanced voting) and polling day on Saturday (May 18).

Goledzinowski also cast his vote.

The Assistant Returning Officer and Australian High Commission Consul briefed guests on the cooperation between the Australian Electoral Commission and the High Commission, the process of conducting elections overseas, the rules for access and set-up and the balloting process.

In upholding the Australian tradition, the High Commission held its "Democracy Sausage" sizzle fund-raising event, with Goledzinowski wielding the tongs to flip sausages and serving voters and their family members at a cost of RM5 each.

Proceeds from the sausage sizzle would be donated to Malaysian Women's Aid Organisation, an NGO that provided free shelter, counselling and crisis support to abused women and children.