Thursday, 5 December 2019
Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019; Second Reading
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:
(1) notes that Australia's Official Development Assistance (ODA) investments are an important way of advancing Australia's interests, projecting our values and tackling global poverty;
(2) expresses concern that since 2014 Coalition Governments have cut $11.8 billion from the foreign aid budget with the result that Australia's ODA investments are now at a record low as a share of Gross National Income;
(3) agrees that active and engaged participation in multilateral institutions, including multilateral development institutions, is essential for advancing Australia's interests in a stable, secure and prosperous international environment; and
(4) expresses concern that the Prime Minister's recent public attacks on global institutions are contrary to Australia's interests in an international rules-based order supported by multilateral institutions which promote economic growth, global security and human development".
Labor supports the Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019. This bill provides a special appropriation to enable the Australian government to meet its commitments to replenish a range of multilateral development funds over coming years. These multilateral funds carry out essential work in tackling poverty and promoting economic growth and sustainable development in some of the world's poorest countries. The funds also promote better environmental outcomes in areas which must be tackled on a global basis, such as climate change and ozone depletion. Australia has played an active role over many years in supporting these funds. Australia's support for these funds is part of our commitment to being a good international citizen. It is one of the ways Australia contributes to global economic and social developments and to tackling international environmental challenges. Labor is a strong supporter of Australia's international development program. Labor is also a strong supporter of the international rules based system and the multilateral institutions which are at the heart of the system.
Foreign aid is needed to help lift people out of poverty, suffering and despair. The challenge of tackling poverty remains urgent, despite remarkable progress over the last quarter of a century. More than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, yet more than 700 million people around the world still live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than US$1.90 a day, and nearly half the world's population lives on less than US$5.50 a day. As Andrew Mitchell, former UK Secretary of State for International Development, said, there are 'deep discrepancies of opportunity and wealth which disfigure our world and which mean that some people live in grinding misery, fear and poverty, but they know, because of globalisation, that there are other parts of the world where people live in great luxury, wealth and success.' Consider what these levels of grinding poverty and economic underdevelopment mean in human terms. People go hungry every day; diseases which have been all but eradicated in rich countries, like tuberculosis, polio and malaria, remain prevalent; people suffer from illness and premature death because they do not have access to health care; people can't afford the basics of life, such as shelter, accommodation, electricity to power their homes, and access to clean water and decent sanitation; women and children suffer from violence; work can only be found in the informal sector where incomes are a pittance; and people live in daily destitution and despair, without hope for a better future for themselves and their families.
Consider the following statistical snapshot of human suffering in the world's poor countries. More than 14,000 children under the age of five die every day, the vast majority of them in developing countries. Around 800 women die in childbirth or from pregnancy related causes every day, the vast majority in developing countries. One in every five preschool children in the world are stunted due to malnutrition. In sub-Saharan Africa, four in every 10 households don't have access to basic drinking water and more than half of all households do not have access to basic sanitation. Around the world, 940 million people live in households that do not have access to electricity. An estimated 438,000 people around the world died from malaria in 2015, more than half them were children under five years old. One in five children in the world live in combat zones. For every one combatant killed in war between 2013 and 2017 five children died. These are horrific figures. Facts and figures like this demonstrate the humanitarian case for aid.
Fighting poverty through official development assistance is also in Australia's national interest. Helping developing countries to grow will promote Australia's interests in a prosperous, stable and secure region. Helping developing countries to grow will also create new economic, trade and investment opportunities for Australia. Development assistance helps poor countries to grow faster. The best way to lift people out of poverty and promote economic, social and human development is to foster economic growth in their countries. Fostering economic growth in developing countries, in turn, will be good for the Australian economy. It will directly support jobs and growth in Australia. As developing countries grow and industrialise they will expand markets for Australian exports of goods and equipment they need to power their economy. As the people of developing countries are lifted out of poverty they will expand the markets for Australian exports of goods and services.
Two generations ago Australia's developing countries were amongst the poorest in the world. Today there are around 1.5 billion middle class consumers in the region. Australia exports $339 billion a year to Asian countries. Ten of Australia's top 15 export markets today are countries where we once provided foreign aid. Australia provided a total of $1.4 billion in ODA to China from the late 1970s to the mid-2010s. In 2018 alone Australia's exports to China were worth $136 billion. There are similar examples. Australia's ODA to Korea totalled $12 million between 1974-75 and 2004-05. In 2018 our exports to Korea were worth $26.6 billion. Australia's ODA to Singapore totalled $59 million between 1974-75 and 2004-05. In 2018 our exports to Singapore were worth just under $15 billion. Australia's ODA to Malaysia totalled $595 million between 1974-75 and 2017-18. In 2018 our exports to Malaysia were worth $10.1 billion. Research has shown that for every dollar of Australian aid to developing countries in Asia over the last three decades Australia has boosted its exports to those countries by $7.
Tackling poverty abroad is also in Australia's interests because it means a more stable and secure region and world. Poverty and social inequalities can generate instability, insecurity and tensions in the international environment. By reducing economic and social disadvantage we tackle the root causes of instability and insecurity. This will not only improve the welfare of people in developing countries but also improve our own security. Poverty can breed security challenges like civil conflict, terrorism, transnational crime and irregular movement of people. Fighting poverty and building international cooperation through development assistance helps avoid these threats. Strategic competition in our region is growing. In that context, we need to engage with developing countries, especially in the Pacific where Australia has strategic interests.
Defence investments alone can't keep Australia safe. Diplomacy and development are critical to countering threats before they reach our shores. It is increasingly recognised by our defence community that the economic, human and developmental dimensions of security need to be addressed, as well as military and geostrategic dimensions. As the chief of Australia's Defence Force, General Angus Campbell has said:
Our national and regional security includes state and human security. It is inherently linked to the security of health, water, energy, food and economic systems.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said:
For policymakers in the West … security and development cannot be seen as separate issues. Development, foreign and security policy initiatives must be interlinked.
Australia's former Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has said, 'We need a better resourced diplomatic and military diplomatic function, particularly in South-East Asia and particularly out in the Pacific.' We need more aid to support our diplomacy. Over recent years we have been cutting aid again and again. What we need to do in the Pacific is provide aid. Supporting international development is squarely in Australia's interests and cutting aid, as this government has done, is contrary to those interests.
Fighting global poverty is also the right thing to do. There is a clear moral case for helping people who are suffering, both at home and abroad. That's true for those who draw their moral framework from their religious faith especially. It's also true for those who take guidance from secular ethical principles.
As World Vision has pointed out, the Bible is rich in wisdom about God's love for the poor and about our responsibility to help. The Bible tells us to feed the hungry and to welcome the stranger, to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. There are similar teachings about generosity and charity towards the poor in all the major religions—in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, amongst others. In recent years, faith based organisations have increasingly been recognised for the important role they play in global poverty reduction.
Secular ethical principles also tell us that taking action to reduce pain and suffering and increase welfare and wellbeing in other countries is the right thing to do. The Australian philosopher Peter Singer provided a compelling moral case for foreign aid in a famous article prompted by the plight of refugees from the Bangladesh independence war in 1971. Professor Singer wrote:
… if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.
Foreign aid and economic development work. They save lives and promote growth, jobs, higher living standards and lower poverty in developing countries. More than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, as developing economies have grown.
Aid has played a part in driving the economic growth that has lifted incomes and reduced poverty. Studies using sophisticated statistical research techniques have consistently found that the provision of foreign aid to a country has a positive long-term impact on its growth. Economic growth is important, but it is not the only measure of the effectiveness of aid. Studies have shown that aid also generates improved educational attainment, with children staying in school longer, especially secondary school; better health outcomes, with positive impacts on life expectancy, infant mortality and public spending on health care; increased investment in infrastructure, like transport, factories, plants and equipment; structural economic change, with growth in manufacturing and service sectors relative to agriculture; and reductions in the numbers of people living in poverty. Aid also contributes to better social outcomes, such as fair treatment of women and children and people with disabilities. It contributes to better governance by building capacity and skills in political, legal and government institutions in developing countries. And, in the case of natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and conflict and violence, aid directly saves lives.
Development is an area to which tens of thousands of ordinary Australians donate their time and money to help. Several of Australia's major charities and development NGOs are faith, community and workplace based organisations: churches; service organisations like Rotary and Lions; trade unions, through Union Aid Abroad, which I'm a proud member of; and the aid agencies which are household names in Australia, such as Save the Children, Red Cross, CARE Australia, World Vision, the Fred Hollows Foundation and many others. Some of the strongest Australian supporters of overseas development assistance include religious leaders, leading philanthropic organisations and individuals, and political leaders from both sides of politics—like Menzies, Fraser, Howard and Julie Bishop from the Liberal side; and Whitlam, Hawke, Rudd and Gillard from the Labor side.
Australians are generous. In 2018, Australia ranked second, behind only Indonesia, in the CAF World Giving Index—a reflection of the willingness of Australians to help a stranger, donate to charity and volunteer. Helping the world's most disadvantaged people is an expression of Australian values. We are a country committed to the fair go, to extending a helping hand to the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and the dispossessed. Our social policies at home reflect that ethos in policies like Medicare, pensions, family benefits, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and assistance for Indigenous Australians, and so do our aid policies abroad. Through our aid program, we ameliorate suffering, help people in crisis and lift people out of poverty.
I agree with the comments by the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Mr Hawke, who said in a recent interview that Australians want the government to reflect their values and their generous spirit, including in the area of development assistance. Our international development programs and our participation in multilateral development institutions are an expression of our values as Australians: generosity, fairness and decency. That is why Labor supports this bill.
Through this bill, the parliament will provide the executive government with a special appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purposes of meeting Australia's commitments to a range of multilateral development funds. I would like to provide the House with some detail about each of the multilateral funds covered by this bill's special appropriation. First, there is the International Development Association. The International Development Association is the World Bank's development arm. The International Development Association reduces poverty by providing loans and grants for people that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities and improve people's living conditions. It is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's poorest countries and is the single largest source of donor funds for basic social services in these countries. Australia is one of more than 170 shareholding nations in the International Development Association. The International Development Association's 19th replenishment round, to cover the period from 2021 to 2023, is currently underway. I understand the important final replenishment meeting will be taking place in Sweden next month. Labor urges the government to maintain Australia's strong record of support for the World Bank's multilateral development activities in the commitments it makes in the 19th replenishment round.
This bill will also support Australia's contribution to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. These are debt relief arrangements administered by the International Development Association. They were launched by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s respectively, with the aim of ensuring that no poor country faces a debt burden it cannot manage. To date, these initiatives have relieved 36 of the world's poorest countries of some US$99 billion of debt. This is helping to put these countries' public finances on a sustainable footing. That will allow their governments to implement reforms to boost their economies and to provide government services to the benefit of their populations.
The bill's special appropriation will also support Australia's contribution to the Asian Development Bank's Asian Development Fund. The Asian Development Bank is one of Australia's most important multilateral development partners, because of its focus on the Asia-Pacific region. Its Asian Development Fund provides grants to low-income countries, particularly countries which are at risk of debt distress. These grants support programs which reduce poverty and promote a better quality of life in our region. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2016 alone the Asian Development Fund built or upgraded 7,100 kilometres of road; installed 340,000 megawatts of renewable energy; developed irrigation, drainage and flood management on 410,000 hectares of land; provided new or improved educational facilities to 1.6 million students; trained 73,000 teachers; provided 3.5 million female students with a better education; delivered access to microfinance to around 18,000 women; and provided 205,000 households with new or improved water supply and 142,000 households with increased access to basic sanitation.
The bill will also appropriate funds for Australia's contributions to two multilateral environmental funds: the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. The Global Environment Facility is administered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was established in the lead-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle environmental challenges such as biodiversity, land degradation, water management, sustainable management of forests, and climate change. The facility provides funding for developing countries and economies in transition to help them meet the objectives of international environmental conventions and agreements. It plays a significant role in tackling climate change, by helping developing countries to shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development. The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol provides funds to assist developing countries to phase out the use of substances which deplete the earth's ozone layer.
Australia has supported the six funds covered by this bill for many years—indeed, for many decades in the case of the International Development Association and the Asian Development Fund—and this support has long been bipartisan in nature. Australia's commitment to the World Bank goes back to the international financial architecture adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Chifley government's 1947 decision to support the Bretton Woods institutions. Australia became a founding member of the Asian Development Bank in 1966 under the Holt government. Australia became one of the first countries to ratify the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer under the Hawke government in 1987, and the Howard government committed Australia to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in the 1990s and to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative in 2005.
Australia's funding commitments to multilateral development institutions are typically renewed every three to four years in replenishment pledges. These replenishment pledges often commit Australia to providing annual funding over several years. In the case of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, for example, I understand Australia has committed to make annual funding contributions out to 2044. The extended nature of these commitments is why it is appropriate for parliament to make a special appropriation. An ongoing special appropriation will better align with the multiyear time frames of Australia's commitments to these funds than annual appropriations. Accordingly, Labor supports the passage of this bill.
However, we wish to take this opportunity to raise our concern about the coalition government's cuts to Australia's aid budget and to raise our concern about the Prime Minister's undermining of Australia's role in multilateral institutions. We have moved the second reading amendment, which:
(1) notes that Australia's Official Development Assistance (ODA) investments are an important way of advancing Australia's interests, projecting our values and tackling global poverty;
Given the importance of Australia's ODA program, our second reading amendment goes on to express concern that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison coalition government has slashed Australia's foreign aid budget—shamefully so. Since it came to office in 2013, this government has made massive cuts to Australia's foreign aid, cuts totalling $11.8 billion. Australia's aid spending is now one billion dollars a year lower than it was under Labor. In real terms, it is $1.5 billion lower. That is a national disgrace. And, as a result of these cuts, Australia's ODA is now on track to fall to 0.18 per cent of gross national income over the budget's forward estimates. This will be the lowest share of ODA as a share of gross national income since the Commonwealth started publishing data in 1961. So under Prime Minister Morrison, Australia's international aid is lower as a share of national income than it was under Menzies, Holt, Gordon, McEwen, Fraser and Howard. It is a shameful legacy of the Morrison government.
Australia has slid down the international league table of aid donors. Under the former Labor government, Australia's aid budget as a share of GNI was in the middle of the pack amongst OECD countries. Under this coalition government, Australia has become one of the least generous of the OECD member countries, when it comes to ODA as a share of GNI. Australia has fallen from being the 13th-most generous OECD country in 2012 to the 18th spot in 2017, and is set to slide further. This comes as the challenge of tackling poverty is growing more severe, despite remarkable progress over the last quarter-century. As I have indicated, more than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, due in no small part to the growth of China and India. Yet more than 700 million people around the world still live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than US$1.90 a day, and nearly half the world lives on less than US$5.50 a day.
Conservative governments in the United Kingdom have legislated to deliver ODA worth 0.7 per cent of Great Britain's gross national income. This conservative government in Australia has gone in the opposite direction. It has cut ODA: from 0.33 per cent of GNI, when it came to office, to 0.18 per cent by 2022-23. These cuts have been contrary to Australia's interests in promoting economic development and the prosperity, stability and security that economic development brings. The cuts are harming our international standing and our bilateral relationships. They are at odds with Australia's values as a generous nation, and they are hurting some of the poorest people in the world.
Labor's second reading amendment goes on to raise our concerns about the government's undermining of Australia's engagement with multilateral institutions. There is a fundamental mismatch between the reality of this bill and the rhetoric indulged in by the Prime Minister. On the one hand, we have the reality of the bill's provisions, which appropriate funds for Australia's contributions to multilateral development institutions—institutions that further Australia's interests and that have enjoyed bipartisan support for decades. On the other hand, we have the deceptive rhetoric of the Prime Minister about so-called negative globalism and the political attacks on the multilateral institutions by the hard Right of the Liberal Party and the National Party in a shameful, shameful manner.
Our second reading amendment notes:
(3) … that active and engaged participation in multilateral institutions … is essential for advancing Australia’s interests …
Further, the amendment:
(4) expresses concern that the Prime Minister's recent public attacks on global institutions are contrary to Australia’s interests in an international rules-based order supported by multilateral institutions which promote economic growth, global security and human development".
The gap between the Prime Minister's politically motivated rhetoric and the provisions of this bill exposes Mr Morrison's hypocrisy concerning international institutions. The Prime Minister is out there in the public arena undermining Australia's commitment to multilateral institutions with his rhetoric about negative globalism. At the same time, his government is bringing legislation like this into parliament to support Australia's contributions to those institutions. That is the worst sort of hypocrisy and dishonesty. The split personality of those opposite on multilateralism is not only evident in the contrast between this bill and the Prime Minister's rhetoric; it is evident in the fact that, under this government, multilateralism has become the policy that dare not speak its name. Let me give an example.
Many members of this House are familiar with the work of the Global Fund, the multilateral health organisation which fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The Global Fund mobilises more than US$4 billion a year from governments around the world and from the private sector. This funding is used to support critical health programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. The Global Fund saves millions of lives. The Global Fund has many supporters in the Australian community and on both sides of parliament. I acknowledge in particular the leadership of the member for Leichardt and the member for Newcastle in their advocacy for the Global Fund. Australia has been a longstanding supporter of the Global Fund, contributing more than $700 million since 2001.
The fund's sixth replenishment conference was held in France in October. The replenishment conference secured pledges of US$14 billion over the next three years to step up the fight against these deadly epidemics, epidemics that must be brought under control. The Global Fund does great work saving the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of human beings every year. I understand the member for Leichardt represented the Australian government at the conference. Australia pledged $242 million for the period from 2020 to 2022. I welcome that commitment on behalf of Labor.
Yet I find it bizarre that the government doesn't want to talk about this pledge—a $242 million commitment by Australia to support work that will save countless lives around the world, funding that will prevent suffering from AIDS; stop children from dying from malaria; and tackle tuberculosis, which is prevalent in some of our nearest neighbours, such as Papua New Guinea. That's the kind of good news ministers usually want to promote, not hide. Yet the government has not said a word about its new commitment to the Global Fund. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific haven't even issued a media release. There hasn't been a tweet or a Facebook post seen by the public. Is it because the government is incompetent or is it because it was politically unacceptable to tell the public that the government was contributing to a multilateral institution called the Global Fund at the same time that the Prime Minister was criticising multilateral institutions and negative globalism? How churlish is that, I ask?
It's just another example of the Prime Minister's dishonest approach, playing political games rather than developing plans to tackle the important issues for the future. That's why Labor has moved this second reading amendment: to call out this government's inconsistency and hypocrisy, to hold it to account for its cuts to Australia's aid budget and to highlight the negative impacts of the Prime Minister's attempts to undermine the public support for multilateral institutions.
Labor welcomes this bill because it will support Australia's continuing participation in multilateral development institutions. Unlike the Prime Minister, who says one thing while doing another, Labor is proud of Australia's support for multilateral development institutions and we are committed to Australia's foreign aid investments. That's because we know that a strong international development program and active engagement in global institutions will advance Australia's interests in a stable, secure and prosperous international environment. I commend the bill to the House.
I'm pleased that the Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019 has come before the House today, as it gives both the government and those on this side of the House an opportunity to recommit our pledge to be a team player on the world stage and, in particular, to contribute our fair share to improve the lives of our Pacific neighbours close by. I am disappointed that not one government speaker is bothering to speak on this legislation today, because this is a very important issue.
I follow on from the member for Shortland and his very considered remarks today about this issue. As he indicated, Labor supports this bill, which is a special appropriation to enable the government to meet its commitments to replenish a range of multilateral development funds over coming years. I want to outline those to the House today. They include the International Development Association, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, the Asian Development Fund, the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which provides assistance to developing countries in phasing out ozone-depleting substances.
These multilateral funds carry out essential work in tackling poverty and promoting economic growth and sustainable development in some of the world's poorest countries. This is an important pillar in Australia's contribution to global economic and social development and to tackling environmental challenges. All of these funds are important, and I'm happy to see the government making strides towards meeting our commitments towards these initiatives. However, despite this, in recent times we've seen behaviour and actions from the government that would indicate that they are not prepared to be a genuine team player on the world stage and, in fact, are slowly eroding Australia's long-held reputation as a leader in the Pacific when it comes to international development.
Since this government came to office in 2013, it has cut $11.8 billion from Australia's aid programs. Media reports earlier this year said these cuts were 'a dereliction of duty' towards helping our Pacific neighbours and those less fortunate around the world. As a result, Australian official development assistance is on track to fall to just 0.19 per cent of gross national income. This will be the lowest level of ODA as a share of gross national income since the Commonwealth started publishing the data in 1961.
At its highest point, in 2012-13 under Labor, Australian aid reached 0.34 per cent of GNI. But, since then, we've seen cut after cut by this government. Aid is now falling even more quickly than it rose during the scale-up. It means that Australia is now the least generous we have been. Under Prime Minister Morrison, Australia's international aid is lower as a share of national income than it was under Liberal Prime Ministers Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon, Fraser and Howard. Australia's aid budget as a share of GNI has fallen from the middle of the pack of the OECD to one of the least generous amounts ever offered within the OECD Development Assistance Committee member countries.
I want to say very clearly to the House today, as someone who represents a large Pacific Islander community in the parliament of Australia, that this is embarrassing for us as a country. I know this because this week I met in person with representatives from the Micah Voices for Justice delegation, who visited Australia and Parliament House in their hundreds to have their message heard that Australia can and must do better. I was pleased to meet with: Reverend James Bhagwan, the general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches in Fiji; Reverend Ikani Tolu, the general secretary of the Tongan National Council of Churches; Reverend Sepi, the general secretary of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia; and Robyn Robertson from Riverlife Baptist Church in my community. Riverlife Baptist Church do amazing work not just here in this country; their outreach across the world should be commended.
We spoke about their vision for Australian aid and discussed how the 'Pacific step-up' can prioritise the needs of the region's most poor, vulnerable and oppressed. They were among over 200 Australian Christians, joined by 15 Pacific church leaders, who came to parliament to share their support for Australian aid and discuss what the 'Pacific step-up' means for Pacific people. Their key message was to call on the government to ensure our foreign aid policy empowers local communities in the Pacific to lead their own inclusive and sustainable development as well as recognising the needs of the most vulnerable, though often resilient, members of our Pacific family—women and children.
This is reflected in five recommendations from Micah Australia as part of Australia's shifting aid focus to the Pacific: ensure the new aid policy empowers local communities in the Pacific to lead their own inclusive and sustainable development; ensure the new aid policy recognises the needs of the most vulnerable members of our Pacific family, particularly women and children; work with Australian church and Christian development agencies to leverage and amplify the strength of the Pacific church as a key partner for human development; ensure the new aid policy recognises the impact of climate change in the Pacific, including the increasing risk and impact of natural disasters; and ensure the 'Pacific step-up' is not at the cost of 'stepping down elsewhere in the world'.
I thank Reverend Bhagwan, Reverend Tolu, Reverend Sepi, Robyn and all the delegates for their commitment, hard work and dedication to this cause. I'm someone who is going to keep fighting for this issue, because our community in this country and right across our region needs to have a stronger voice. I look forward to working with you to advance this and ensure that Australia meets its obligations to our Pacific neighbours and friends. I personally saw the positive impact our contribution makes when I visited the Solomon Islands in 2018. You hear and you read a lot about our Pacific neighbours, but seeing is believing. Sitting there with aid workers, church leaders and members of the community was an eye-opening experience. To see firsthand the poverty, the disadvantage, the violence and the family and domestic violence, in particular, was something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
There's no doubt that a well-funded and strategic foreign aid program definitely works. That's why I and the Labor Party on this side of the chamber are strong supporters of Australia's international development program. I want to acknowledge the work of the member for Shortland, our shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, and a whole range of Labor frontbenchers who are raising this and keeping this a really strong issue not only in our country but right across the region. In particular, today, I want to acknowledge the work of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Richard Marles, who has long had a passion and a desire to see these issues raised to front and centre of mainstream issues but who also is a firm believer in strong, deep and lasting relationships with our Pacific neighbours, as is the member for Brand, the shadow trade minister, who has done an enormous amount of policy work in this area.
It benefits not only developing countries but also Australia as a nation. Growth in developing countries creates new trade and investment opportunities for Australia that will not only help lift people in developing countries out of poverty but also support Australian jobs. Tackling poverty in developing countries is also in Australia's national interest because it means a more stable and secure international environment in which we may do business and promote tourism. More than this, it is an investment in a better future for our neighbours and our world.
Foreign aid improves things like education, health, gender equality, agriculture and economic development so developing countries can trade and compete in the international market. It helps create a significant difference in communities around the developing world, promoting social and economic stability, peace and prosperity, which benefits everyone. Every year, Australian aid improves the lives of literally millions of people around the world. Examples include a 25 per cent increase in the number of trained midwives in Fiji. As the son of a midwife, this is particularly important to me personally. It is also helping 87,000 people get access to safe water and sanitation in countries like Sri Lanka.
But, whilst Australia continues to provide a track record in supporting these initiatives, the current Prime Minister continues to undermine our important role in the Pacific and, indeed, on the world stage. On the one hand, Prime Minister Morrison is out in the public area undermining Australia's commitment to multilateral institutions with his rhetoric about negative globalism. At the same time, his government is bringing legislation like this into the parliament to support Australia's contributions to those institutions. Which one is it? Earlier this year, when the Prime Minister was speaking at the Lowy Institute, he said:
We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill defined borderless global community. And worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy.
This bill exposes the Prime Minister's hypocrisy concerning the so-called unaccountable and internationalist institutions. It's another example of the Prime Minister's dishonest approach, the classic ad man tactic: playing political games rather than developing policies to tackle the important issues for the future. No wonder the broader community are saying our Prime Minister is nothing more than an ad man with no plan.
On this side of the House we agree that active and engaged participation in multilateral institutions, including multilateral development institutions, is absolutely essential for advancing Australia's interest in a stable, secure and prosperous international environment and that the Prime Minister's recent public attacks on global institutions are contrary to Australia's interest in an international, rules based order supported by multilateral institutions which promote economic growth, global security and human development.
I want to remind the Prime Minister and those opposite what our contributions to these multilateral institutions achieve on a global scale. Take, for example, the International Development Association, which is principally mentioned in this bill. Over the past decade, IDA financing has immunised 330 million children, provided access to better water services for 96½ million people, provided essential health services to 769 million people and recruited or trained more than 14 million teachers. So, when the Prime Minister takes pot shots at institutions like this, it's not leadership; it's cheap political pointscoring from an ad man.
Our international development programs and our participation in multilateral development institutions are an expression of our values as Australians. That's why Labor supports the bill today. By reducing economic disadvantage, we tackle the root causes of instability and insecurity. This will not only improve the welfare of people in developing countries but also improve our own security.
Since being elected to this place, I've had the absolute privilege and honour of visiting the Pacific. As I mentioned earlier in my remarks today, I have visited the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tonga and Fiji. I did that because I wanted to have a deeper understanding of the residents that I represent. Over 60,000 people in the Oxley electorate were born in different countries, making it one of the most multicultural electorates in Australia. When I've met with Pacific islander leaders in my community, they've expressed to me their deep attachment and connection to their home countries. I feel that as well after visiting those countries, although briefly.
Supporting international development is squarely in Australia's interest, but fighting global poverty is also the right thing to do, as the Christian leaders reminded me in my office this week. Helping the world's most disadvantaged people is an expression of Australian values. We are a country committed to a fair go and to helping the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, both at home and abroad. I commend this bill to the House and, once again, call on the government to continue with these initiatives so that we may truly be a team player on the global stage.
The Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019 provides a special appropriation to enable the government to meet its commitments to replenish a range of multilateral development funds over the coming years. Such funds are of increasing importance, as they carry out essential work in tackling poverty and promoting economic growth and sustainable development in some of the world's poorest nations. Their work also plays a role in resolving environmental challenges and working on environmental challenges which require global cooperation. In summary they are: the International Development Association, which is the World Bank's development arm; the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative; the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, a debt relief arrangement administered by the International Development Association; the Asian Development Fund, which provides development grants to low-income members of the Asian Development Bank; the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund, which is administered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support sustainable development activities around the world; and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which provides funds to help developing countries to phase out the use of substances which deplete the earth's ozone layer. Some here would remember that this was an initiative that the Hawke government signed very early on, in 1987.
There has been bipartisan support for these multilateral funds for many, many years. Australia's commitment to the World Bank extends back to the international financial architecture which was adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Chifley government's 1947 decision for Australia to join the Bretton Woods Institutions. As I said, we were one of the first countries to sign the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, under the Hawke government in 1987. The Howard government's commitment to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative in 2005 demonstrates the level of bipartisanship.
Labor understands the importance of development assistance to our national interests and its interrelated importance to humanitarian objectives. In fact, I would argue that they're not mutually exclusive. That's why we support the passage of this bill. However, it is important to articulate or at least express our concern with the Prime Minister's undermining, overall, of Australia's official development assistance and, as a corollary, undermining of our role in multilateral institutions. Since this government came to office in 2013, they've continued to cut the budget for Australia's development assistance program, totalling $11.8 billion. Our international aid and development assistance is now lower as a share of national income than it was under Liberal Prime Ministers Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon, Fraser and Howard, and under Prime Minister Morrison it's at the bottom of the pile. Of course, it's for historians to determine whether he's at the top of the list as the worst Liberal Prime Minister ever, but I would suspect, particularly in this case, he's made a very strong case for that prize. We are one of the least generous nations amongst Development Assistance Committee member countries. Is that how we want to be known?
It's important to look at the impacts of cutting $11.8 billion during this period. It has significant and severe impacts. It's harming our international standing and our bilateral relationships. It's at odds with our Australian values as a generous nation, as we've heard from previous speakers. Importantly, there's a demonstrable link between the development assistance program that we deliver and our national interest.
A report by Save the Children highlighted a number of statistics that demonstrated that inequality harms economic growth because it is a barrier to sustainable and inclusive growth, that it entrenches discrimination, that it undermines social and political cohesion, and that it creates the conditions for political and social tensions to be exacerbated. Instability and conflict flow from that. So helping these developing countries to grow economically, socially and in their governance actually promotes Australia's national interests. We want to see a prosperous, stable and secure region—that's the purpose of those programs.
One example is gender. Labor has consistently articulated a clear vision in relation to the importance of foreign aid and development in addressing gender inequality. Throughout the developing world women are confronted with a plethora of challenges. We have played a role, and play a role, in addressing those challenges, and that includes efforts to promote women's human rights in accordance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. For instance, Australia's foreign aid contribution could have a meaningful impact on promoting women's empowerment by funding educational programs and initiatives aimed at ensuring women have fair and equal access to education, training and employment programs. Labor support eliminating the cultural and economic barriers faced by children—in particular, young girls—attending school: child labour, child trafficking, child marriage, safety to and from school, community attitudes and teaching practices. I've seen this firsthand. On a trip to Myanmar, on a delegation made up of a number of MPs from all sides of politics, we saw the impact of our development assistance program on communities. The women in those communities who took charge of the funds—and, I've got to say this: on average, men are more corrupt—were thinking intergenerationally. There was less corruption. They were thinking about the future of their children and grandchildren in the community. The success stories there were very, very striking.
Our development assistance also plays a role in the context of the impact of climate change on our Pacific Island neighbours. In the Pacific the impact of climate change has the potential to actually reverse the reduction in poverty that has been made in the past 30 years. Whilst sea rise of a few centimetres will have an impact for us here in Australia, those same changes are catastrophic and absolutely devastating for the people of Tuvalu, for example. Yet, in the recent OECD report, it was noted that Australia spends less on development supporting climate change than any other OECD countries—13 per cent of Australia's development assistance in 2015 compared to a 26.2 per cent average for the other OECD countries. Conservative estimates indicate that the impacts of climate change will result in more than a hundred million additional people being pushed into poverty by 2030. Unless you're in the coalition government, there's little doubt that climate change and climate change related disasters clearly pose risk to economic growth, poverty reduction, education, health and regional security in the Pacific. Tackling issues such as these through our soft power, our development assistance, generates stability and not only improves the welfare of people in developing countries but also improves our own security. So supporting international development is squarely in Australia's national interest.
There are many academics that talk about and have done very important analyses around the impacts of development assistance. Two academics, Betts and Collier, who talk about philosophies behind humanitarian assistance, summarise it as the head and the heart. The heart is the compassion—the moral underpinning of aid programs. You could argue it's intrinsically linked to our Australian spirit, our Australian values, the boundless plains to share and the values that promote egalitarianism and fairness. The head is the logical and evidence based benefits of an effective aid program: trade, security, stability, prosperity. Labor has agreed to improve our aid program, our official development assistance program, because we understand both the head and the heart of development assistance policy.
We welcome this bill because it supports Australia's continuing participation in multilateral development institutions. We're committed to strengthening Australia's foreign aid investment because an active international development program will further our national interest in a stable, secure and prosperous international environment.
This bill enjoys bipartisan support. It involves increasing Australia's commitment by providing replenishment funds to six multilateral development organisations. But it comes at a time when aid has been savagely cut to the lowest level since records began. Since the government came to office in 2013, it has cut nearly $12 billion from Australia's aid programs. That means aid as a share of national income is lower now than it was under Liberal prime ministers Menzies, Holt, Gordon, McMahon, Fraser and Howard. Those governments recognised the importance of overseas aid, not just in alleviating poverty but also in building trade in our region, and also in ensuring that our region is safer.
We used to be a donor that sat in about the middle of the OECD pack, but our generosity has now fallen to the point where we are one of the least generous countries in the OECD. Direct aid to Pakistan has been halved from $39 to $19 million. Aid to Cambodia has dropped from $56 million to $43 million. As former World Vision chief Tim Costello has said, the diversion of aid from countries like Pakistan to fund the 'Pacific step-up' has meant that Australia's international interests are jeopardised. As he said:
Aid is soft power and even defence and security people in Australia are starting to speak up and say we've cut aid too much.
Aid is now at the lowest level that it has ever been in Australia's history, according to records we have going back. This is a direct threat to Australia's national interest.
In real terms, the coalition has cut aid in every one of its budgets since coming to office. In nominal terms, aid was $5 billion and going upwards when Labor left office. Now it's $4 billion and going downwards as a share of national income. This is a travesty. It impacts on Australia's ability to do good in the world. It impacts on Australia's ability to ensure that our values are propagated. When we cut aid to some of the most vulnerable countries, we leave them exposed to the challenges of child malnutrition, infectious diseases and climate change. We leave them exposed to significant risks from violent extremism. Australian aid saves lives. When we cut the aid budget, people lose their lives. It's as simple as that. Tim Costello has estimated that hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives as a result of Australia's aid cuts. As a child, I lived in Indonesia for three years and in Malaysia for a year. I've seen firsthand the impact that Australian aid had in those communities. My predecessor, Bob McMullan, said that the most rewarding thing that he did during his two decades in politics was to serve as parliamentary secretary under the Rudd government and oversee the disability-inclusive development program in Indonesia. There are now thousands of Indonesian schools that are wheelchair accessible as a result of Australia's aid programs. Where a child in a wheelchair might not otherwise have been able to attend school, they now can do so as a result of Australia's aid program.
The strong number of Labor members in the House right now is, I believe, a testimony to the strong support for aid on this side of the House—the pride that Labor has in the aid program, reflected by the willingness of Labor members to be here and speak and recognise the importance of aid. You can see this in the speaking list. The coalition ran out after a speaker or two, but Labor speakers are committed to being here, to speaking about the importance of aid. We understand that foreign aid is vital to Australia's values in the community.
Australian aid needs to ensure that we do in the world what we are best at—not just helping out countries in our region but also working in areas such as Mining for Development. I recognise the Gillard government's establishment of the Mining for Development program, putting in place Australia's expertise in ensuring that the resource curse is turned into a resource blessing. There is also dryland farming, where Australia has a role in providing assistance not just to countries in our region but also to countries in Africa, ensuring that their farmers learn from the way Australia has managed to boost our agricultural sector in regions like the wheat belt in Western Australia. Those learnings from mining and agriculture can be powerfully conveyed to other countries, ensuring that their prosperity grows, that those countries provide greater prosperity to their citizens, ensuring that they're able to bring people out of poverty.
Australian aid has also been characterised by our success in fragile states. Australia has been successful in the Solomons, where the intervention managed to stabilise a vulnerable country. Our intervention in East Timor marks the best of post-crisis policing and stands in significant contrast to other interventions, in parts of the Middle East. There's much that can be taken from our work in fragile states—much that we can do to help stabilise in a post-crisis environment. Australia does this well. Australia's ability to use a ready smile and gentle community policing has helped to save lives in these vulnerable fragile states.
So we ought to look, in our aid program, not just to our region—and of course we support the 'Pacific step-up', but we also need to look to our expertise in mining, in dryland farming and in fragile states. And the 'Pacific step-up' cannot work without a commitment to climate change. When people like the Minister for Home Affairs are making jokes about water lapping around ankles in Pacific atolls, it is impossible for Australia to operate with sufficient credibility in the Pacific region. So long as emissions are rising in Australia and there is no commitment to tackling climate change, Australia cannot fully engage with the Pacific. For the Pacific, climate change isn't someone else's issue; it is a genuine existential threat. As long as Australia fail to act on climate change, as long as we're a country that are unable to cut emissions, as long as we're a country that oversee rising emissions, our engagement with the Pacific will always be second best.
Australia needs a stronger aid program. We need to engage with the region through providing the assistance to our region that befits a country of our standing. So often we hear from those opposite the notion that Australia ought to simply step back, that we can't do anything to solve the world's problems. As Ross Garnaut once put it, it's the philosophy that Australia is 'a pissant country', that Australia cannot play a role in tackling world poverty, climate change and natural disasters. But Australia is not a pissant country.
Australia sits comfortably within the G20. We were, at one time, the 12th largest economy in the world. We've now slipped a number of places under the coalition; growth has slipped under their watch. But we are still a country that can play a significant role in climate change, in poverty alleviation and in dealing with instability in the world. It was under Labor that Australia took a seat on the United Nations Security Council. It was under Labor that Australia saw the G20 become the pre-eminent body to respond to the global financial crisis. And it was under Labor that that we secured the G20 meetings in Brisbane. Labor recognises that Australia has a powerful role to play on the world stage, and at this time in history it is so disappointing to see the coalition taking a little-Australia approach, seeing Australia having no role to tackle these huge challenges.
Manning Clark spoke about two groups in Australian public life: the enlargers and the straiteners. We've seen the straiteners take over under the coalition. The Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments have been governments of the straiteners—governments who are unable to see Australia's proud role in the past, unable to recognise that global engagement hasn't just been a story of Evatt and Whitlam, Hawke and Keating, Rudd and Gillard, proud as those records have been. They have failed to recognise that it was Robert Menzies who ensured that Australia's aid program to Indonesia involved a volunteers program, set up by people like Jamie Mackie and Herb Feith, which saw Australia use our soft power in the region. They've failed to recognise that there is a coalition legacy of overseas development assistance—a coalition legacy that recognises the value of providing aid to countries that need it, a coalition legacy that recognises that Australia is at our best when we have inclusive values domestically and when we assist others in the world.
There is a lack of vision from the coalition at a time when the world is looking for global leadership. How much more could Australia be doing at a time when the United States is distracted by internal political conflict, impeachment hearings into the President, and a President who takes a more restrictive view of America's role abroad? How much more could Australia be doing at a time when Britain is distracted by Brexit and there is an opportunity for Australia to step up on the world stage—not just a Pacific step-up, but a global step-up? That would require Australia to have a serious aid program. It would require Australia to have an overseas development assistance program which befits the size of our nation, which befits the notion of Australia as a proud country with much to do on the global stage.
The role that Australian aid has had in the Asia-Pacific region has changed lives. I still have friendships with my Indonesian schoolmates, which were forged in part because of my parents working on overseas aid programs and recognising the value of dealing with crises in Indonesia. In the wake of the tsunami that hit Indonesia some years ago, my father worked in rebuilding programs in Aceh at a time when Australia's aid program played a significant role. Yes, we should be there for disaster alleviation, but we should also be there for institution-building; we should also be there for providing vaccinations and building schools. As the coalition has pulled these resources out, Australia has failed to do our bit in alleviating global poverty, as with climate change, as with dealing with violent extremism. We can't solve the problem alone, but we are a significant middle power, and we can act in concert with other middle powers in order to help achieve a positive result. Labor has a history of doing this, in establishing the APEC leaders meetings. We did this through putting in place the Cairns Group of agricultural free-trading nations that helped bring a successful close to the last world trade agreement. It has been a long time between world trade agreements and a long time since we had an Australian government that was willing to act on multilateralism. Instead, we have a coalition government committed only to bilateral deals—sometimes deals that produce positive results, and we'll support them when they are there.
But the big gains from trade come from multilateral trade liberalisation. That's where we get poverty alleviation. That's where we get the massive benefits to communities. Aid and trade, working together, can bring millions out of poverty. But, under the coalition, Australia's stepped back from that key role on the world stage. We've stepped back from our historic mission to make a safer world—a world in which trade is able to save lives and a world in which aid is able to save lives.
I conclude where I started: we welcome this bill, but there is much more to be done, and much more that could be done, if we had a government committed to reducing poverty in our region.