House debates

Monday, 24 February 2020


Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019; Second Reading

1:24 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the amendment moved by the member for Shortland, because, while of course I am very supportive of replenishing the multilateral funds, I am very concerned about some other very serious elements of the government's official development assistance program. This bill, the Official Development Assistance Multilateral Replenishment Obligations (Special Appropriation) Bill 2019, 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 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 help us tackle serious environmental challenges which require global cooperation.

Australia has played an active role over many years in supporting these funds. We have to continue to do so in the interests of our neighbours and in the interests of the global community, but also in our own interests. Our support for these funds is part of Australia's commitment to being a good global citizen. Being a good global citizen requires active, determined and purposeful diplomacy, building a framework of strong partnerships to help advance a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, and, of course, playing our role to strengthen the rules based international order.

Labor is a strong supporter of Australia's international development program, and it is a strong supporter of this rules based international order. There really should be nothing controversial about saying that Australia ought to be a proactive member of the international community. Good international citizenship aligns with enduring Labor values of solidarity, fairness, equality, justice and inclusion. Ben Chifley said, about the light on the hill:

…we aim to reach it by working for the betterment of mankind, not only here, but anywhere we may lend a helping hand.

That's something that is deeply ingrained in our psyche as the Labor Party. But foreign aid is not just altruism. As my very good friend Gareth Evans once observed:

Good international citizenship is no more and no less than the pursuit of enlightened self-interest.

That is absolutely true. It's why Labor strongly believes that our national security and prosperity improve with greater international security and prosperity, when all countries have a say in making the rules—especially vital for smaller nations—and when countries that break the rules face the censure of the international community.

Doc Evatt, when he went off to the conference that established the modern United Nations, was the voice for small nations. He was the one saying that small countries, like Australia is in population terms, should have as large a say in setting the rules in international affairs as big nations. He said, 'Not all the wisdom is with the big nations.' By acting as a good international citizen, and by enhancing the rules based international order and promoting respect for universal human rights, we are working for the long-term peace and prosperity of Australians. A more prosperous and peaceful world means a greater chance of Australians living in peace and prosperity. As we build Australia's international reputation, we also build economic and strategic advantage. Being a good global citizen is good for our citizens in the long run.

That's why I was very concerned to hear the Prime Minister, at the Lowy Institute last October, talk about what he called 'unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy' that uses:

… a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill defined borderless global community.

I don't know what he means by this. I don't know which organisations he's talking about. I don't know which bureaucracy he's talking about. I don't know what he is being made to do that he doesn't want to do. If the Prime Minister holds these views, I think it would be important for him to talk about what these views are specifically. Which borderless global community is he talking about? What is 'negative globalism'? It really does sound like something from the QAnon manifesto—very heavy on the rhetoric, but light on the details.

Of course no-one pretends that the United Nations is perfect as it is. It could be more effective in many respects; so could its constituent bodies and so could, in some instances, the global funds or the international courts. Labor has expressed some of our concerns about some of the elements of the trade deals that have been signed in recent times. I would be the very first to support the Prime Minister if he were saying: 'How can we improve on these arrangements? How can we strengthen them?'

Through international cooperation, we have also achieved some magnificent victories. We have solved great global problems. The Millennium Development Goals show the importance of setting those optimistic, but achievable, goals. We've raised, globally, more than a billion people out of extreme poverty; the percentage of people living in extreme property globally fell to a new low of 10 per cent in 2015, which is the last year we have full numbers for.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The member for Sydney will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.