Monday, 24 June 2013
Questions without Notice
Last year, senators will recall, communal violence broke out in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas. The conflict resulted in 192 deaths, the destruction of 8,000 homes and the displacement of 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya. But the discrimination against this population goes back a long way. It goes back over 100 years. It predates the present government in Myanmar by a long way. They are a stateless minority. Most do not have citizenship rights, and that is the core of the discrimination they face.
Australia's response to this is, first of all, to urge the government of Myanmar to produce—not easy, given the 100 years of discrimination—a just resolution to the plight of these people; and, second, to lend a hand in getting aid in in providing assistance. I am proud to say that Australia is providing food for 100,000 displaced people through the World Food Programme, in Rakhine State; protection for 37,000 children—contemplate that: 37,000 children—who have been separated from families; and tents and emergency shelter for 32,000 people who fled or lost their homes. That money has been allocated through the UNHCR.
As to the conditions, the camps have been described, by people who have spent time there and who know what they are talking about, as the worst refugee camps on the face of the planet. Our aid is providing blankets, clothes and mosquito nets for 14,000 people living in temporary shelters. The rainy season is making living conditions harder and increasing health risks. Our latest commitment is $1.5 million, therefore, to help UNICEF to provide 40,000 people with safe drinking water and better sanitation. (Time expired)
As well as humanitarian assistance, Australian aid to Myanmar is targeting long-term development assistance to eliminate poverty. Recent political reforms have improved the operating environment for donors, making it possible to increase our aid in Myanmar. We have invested $140 million in the country over the past three years. Next year alone, we will provide around $82 million in aid to Myanmar. We are providing aid for 1.9 million people with malaria, 22,000 people with HIV and 135,000 people with TB. We have helped more than 900,000 children go to school, including, among other things, by providing textbooks and stationery. Our aid has helped repair 1,000 primary schools. It will provide 120 new Australia Awards Scholarships this year for studying in Australia. Remember that this is a country where half the population will not complete primary school.
This goes to the core of the development challenge the country faces after being retarded by dictatorship for all the decades since the military coup of 1962. Children in Myanmar face the prospect that they will have a lower level of education than their parents. Successive generations have been affected by low government investment in education and a shortage of teachers. Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to me about how education now is inferior to the education she received in the 1950s. In 2010, around one million children were not attending school, and only 54 per cent of children completed primary school, as I said a moment ago.
The Myanmar government is completing a comprehensive education review. We are co-chairing with UNICEF the working group which is overseeing the review. The review will help to better target investment in education. We have allocated $80 million over four years to help with this target. (Time expired)