Tuesday, 18 March 2014
International Development Assistance
I, and also on behalf of Senator Moore, move:
(i) the importance of the Australian aid program to sustainable economic and social development and poverty alleviation for Pacific nations,
(ii) the contribution of the Australian aid program to Australia’s national interests through support for regional stability, security and prosperity,
(iii) the verbal commitment by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to not cut Australian development assistance to Pacific nations, and
(iv) the announcement by the Minister on 18 January 2014 that $650 million will be cut from Australia’s development assistance in 2013-14, including $61.4 million to the following Pacific country and regional programs:
Papua New Guinea – $5.3 million,
Solomon Islands – $14.2 million,
Vanuatu – $6.2 million,
Samoa – $3.6 million,
Fiji – $2.8 million,
Tonga – $2.7 million,
Kiribati – $3 million,
Other small Pacific islands – $3.6 million, and
Pacific regional – $20 million;
(b) calls on the Minister to meet her commitment to not cut Australian development assistance to Pacific nations; and
(c) calls on the Government to reverse its $4.5 billion in cuts to Australia’s aid program and work to reinstate funding to levels published in the 2013 14 Budget.
I seek leave to move two amendments to the motion.
I move the amendments circulated in my name:
After subparagraph (a)(iv), insert:
Paragraph (c), omit all words after “Australia’s aid program and”, substitute “to work towards 0.7 per cent of GNI allocated to overseas aid by increasing funding to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2017-18”.
It is incredibly disappointing that neither the Labor Party nor the coalition will today support the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of a target for aid funding of 0.7 per cent of GNI. Countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have all met this goal. Not only has Australia lagged behind, but the recent Labor government, under a succession of ministers, continually deferred even a conservative target of 0.5 per cent of GNI. In 2008 foreign minister Stephen Smith committed Australia to a target of 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015-16. This was reaffirmed in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2012 foreign minister Bob Carr deferred this target to 2016-17. In 2013 he delayed it again, to 2017-18, despite the ALP's own platform calling on the party to work towards a goal of 0.7 per cent. It is disappointing to see them vote with the coalition to block such a call in the Senate.
The Australian government strongly refutes the assertion that the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a verbal commitment to Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to not reduce Australian development assistance. The official records of the meetings between the minister and her Solomon Islands and Vanuatu counterparts do not support the assertion. In the case of Nauru, the foreign minister committed that the proposed 2013-14 budget would be met and has kept this promise.
The government notes that Ms Plibersek and Mr Thistlethwaite were invited to tour the Pacific with an official delegation as part of a longstanding tradition of a bipartisan nature initiated by the Howard government. The false assertions levelled by the opposition with regard to meetings to which they were invited clearly undermined the bipartisan spirit of this tour. As announced before the election, the government are refocusing our aid, trade and diplomatic efforts in our region where our national interest is and where we have the most capacity to make a difference.