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PNG laws hamper votes of no confidence

The government of Papua New Guinea has flexed its political muscle for the second time in two days, passing amendments critics say will make it harder to unseat Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

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The vote, to amend PNG’s constitution to give parliament a month’s notice before votes of no confidence, was carried – on a vote of 82/2 – amid calls by deputy opposition leader Sam Basil for Mr O’Neill to resign.

Mr Basil said the report recommending the law was doctored.

The laws also require parliament to sit for a minimum of 40 days a year, down from 63, and require a minimum of 22 of PNG’s 111 MPs to mount a vote of no confidence.

Mr O’Neill told the single House of Parliament he will resign if he loses the confidence of at least half the country’s sitting national MPs.

“To maintain confidence in a government you will continue to need 56 members of parliament to maintain that level of confidence, and I want to reassure this house, if I ever lose that confidence, I will resign as prime minister,” the Post Courier reported him as saying.

Since his election win in August 2012, Mr O’Neill has seen his grand coalition grow to 101 MPs with just a handful of undeclared MPs. The opposition numbers just seven.

Deputy opposition leader Sam Basil and opposition MP Tobias Kulang were the only nay votes.

The laws passed on Thursday are watered down versions of laws proposed by Mr O’Neill earlier this year.

The original was for votes of no confidence to be made public three months before the vote, with the backing of 37 MPs.

The vote marks the second time in recent days the government has passed major legislation.

On Wednesday, parliament passed laws granting the state 100 per cent ownership of the Ok Tedi copper mine in the Western highlands.

The laws also quashed mining giant BHP’s immunity from prosecution for damage sustained when the mine was built.

Earlier this year, parliament voted to extend bans on votes of no confidence from 18 to 30 months of a government’s five year term.

Mr O’Neill has argued previous governments – which in PNG are always made of broad coalitions of different parties – have been held hostage by surprise threats of votes of no confidence in the past.

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