Senators Jerilin Senior and Rukebai Inabo have been in Canberra observing how Australia's parliament works, as part of the Pacific Women's Parliamentary Program.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Palau Senators Rukebai Inabo & Jerilin Senior
SENIOR: It's also very expensive as well. The financing for campaigns I'm sure, and I can say this for maybe each member of parliament, they probably spend, each one must have spent over 50-thousand dollars US to run for office.
HILL: In a small place like Palau? That's a lot of money?
SENIOR: Yes it's a lot of money but we also need to change the mentality, because I know this is happening also in other Pacific Islands where the voters expect the candidates to give out monies at funerals, at parties, to donate food, to donate drinks. It seems like the politician has to go around getting support from the people by participating or being part of their family functions, community events. So I think in addition to the fact that traditionally women's roles have been caretakers of the family, children, it's additionally also very expensive to be running a campaign.
HILL: Senator Inabo you came to politics through the world of business and so I think a lot of people in the business community thought that you would be someone who would understand their sort of role. Did that help you not being seen necessarily as solely defined by being a woman, but also having this business experience as well?
INABO: Yes I think that's a very good point because I think people who elected me, elected me because I have business background. I've been in positions in the utilities, in the banking sector, in the private sector, so they believe that I have something to contribute and that I can be someone who looks after the interests of the people in many aspects. Yes I think because of my background and because they see that I have something to contribute that I can see things differently, that I have new ideas, different approach, woman, that made it possible for me to be elected into the office.
HILL: Have you learned or seen anything in your visit to Australia and the Australian parliament and talking to women in politics here that has given you some ideas that you could take back to Palau?
SENIOR: Wonderful question Bruce, yes, let me begin by the last meeting we went to in Sydney. This is part of the Pacific Women's parliamentary partnership program, when we went to Sydney last year at this time we then went back, we were very inspired, we started what we call the Centre for Women Empowerment in Palau. And it's a group that's hoping to organise women to support other women to stand for elections and get elected into office. This time around for me personally it's juggling between family and politics. I've been in office for a year and I must say Bruce it was a difficult year. The first year in office was just a tremendous sacrifice for my family, my children, because of my schedule. The schedule is hectic, I was not able to be there as much. So for me to be able to connect with these women parliamentarians here in Australia to address those basic issues of family life, for me to realise that I'm not the only one who's going through these struggles. For me I think that was the most important part.
HILL: And Senator Inabo what will you take away from your visit to Australia?
INABO: My visit to Australia I've learned to be a better politician, to be able to see things that I've never saw before. Senator Englehart took us to Tasmania and she explained some of the programs, visiting schools, talking to the children. It's not campaigning, it's keeping in touch with the people. One senator also mentioned the fact that you maintain that relationship and you come to know the issues that affect your people, that makes you a more effective senator. I also learned a lot from participating in some of the parliament's proceedings, like invitation of Honourable Karen Andrews, an MP, to be in her committee on public works, oversight on a certain project. They explained that that committee is very important because it's parliament's way of making sure people's money is not wasted, that whatever project that needs to be brought up or put up is to serve the interests of the people. So I've been very blessed with meeting many senators. We also met the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
HILL: Julie Bishop, our highest ranking female politician?
INABO: Oh yes she was wonderful, she's a very strong person, she asked what we need from her, she offered help where she could and we really appreciated that. I also saw the Honourable Dr Sharon Stone on the television, very courageous, standing up for her constituents, though her party in the government did not agree to help the constituents who are dealing with a struggling agricultural business, she was standing up for them and being courageous. So yes I have learned so much from being here and I think I'll be a more productive senator and doing what's best for the people because I came to Australia and I thank everybody for meeting with us and for accommodating us.