SPEECH: Introducing a Bill for Marriage Equality

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 

  

SPEECH INTRODUCING A BILL FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 2 MAY 2016

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

Yesterday in Sydney, I joined my colleague, the Member for Grayndler, and a state colleague Jo Haylen, the member for Summer Hill, and many others, families, individuals at a picnic hosted by Rainbow Families –

…a wonderful organisation that supports and empowers LGBTI families.

At that picnic we met many wonderful parents.

Some with tiny babies, young children and some with children much older.

And we talked about the usual struggles and joys of being a mum or a dad – the young baby that won’t sleep through the night, the toddler taking their first steps, the teenager who gives you grief, or the pride of the son or daughter graduating from university.

The way people at that picnic put it yesterday is that “Love Makes a Family.”

And as we watched the kids running around the park, kicking the ball with their two mums, or their two dads – love is, indeed, all that you saw.

I am deeply, deeply concerned about what the debate leading up to a plebiscite on marriage equality would mean for these beautiful children and their families.

For kids who’ve got two mums or two dads, to hear for months, or possibly even years, that there is something not right about their families, I just think is unforgiveable and unacceptable.

We don’t need a plebiscite. The Parliament can, and should, get marriage equality done.

Seven in ten Australians support marriage equality.[1]

They recognise that the relationships – the love of their sisters or brothers, sons or daughters, colleagues, team-mates, friends

…is not lessened if that love is between two people of the same sex.

For all the campaigns, the efforts of those of us in this place and the tireless work of community activists, the groundswell of support for equality owes most to the courage of the men and women who have lived and loved openly – despite prejudice, discrimination and even danger.

I want to thank them for their bravery and their determination. It has made Australia more inclusive, fairer and closer to the sort of Australia I want my kids to grow up in, where we are all equal.

I did think that we would be there by now.

At the beginning of this Parliament, recognising that equality ought to be a bipartisan issue, I sought a seconder from the Coalition parties for a private members bill removing discrimination from the Marriage Act.

For more than a year, I waited for someone on the other side of the House to feel that they could put their name to ending legal discrimination.

When, last year, it became apparent that waiting was in vain – Labor’s leader, Bill Shorten, introduced a private member’s bill to the same effect and I seconded it.

The introduction of that bill finally did produce some action from the other side. When we heard that Coalition MPs didn’t feel that they could support a bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, we withdrew our bill to allow another to be put forward sponsored by backbenchers from all parties.

Because neither the Leader of the Opposition nor I cared whose name was on the bill: only that it would pass.

And for a while, with support from all sides of politics, it looked like it just might.

But everybody knows what happened next. Everybody knows that former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, ambushed the supporters of equality in his own party and stacked the party room meeting to make sure that there’d be no free vote on marriage equality, and no marriage equality.

Instead he proposed a national plebiscite – expensive, divisive, and meaningless –

But a way of delaying equality for a bit longer.

Members of his own party spoke publically against this “captain’s call.”

Including the Member for Wentworth.

So when the Member for Wentworth became the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister, it seemed that the moment had come when things might change. That we might be able to get this done, once and for all. That we might be able to finally leave behind discrimination against people because of who they love.

But this Prime Minister has been an enormous disappointment.

He sold out LGBTI Australians – traded away their right to equality – to become Prime Minister. He signed up to the plebiscite delaying tactic to secure the support of the Liberal Party’s right wing.

We know it’s nothing but a delaying tactic because there’s no sign of movement from this Government.

In fact the Attorney-General was told to shelve work on the enabling legislation in March this year.

Because of the Prime Minister’s tricky move to get a double dissolution election – that saw the whole Parliament recalled for just two days at a cost of more than a million dollars[2] – the cross-party bill has lapsed.

That’s why, today, we will try to put right some of that by re-introducing a bill for marriage equality.

Australians who have waited decades to marry their life-long partners and who fear they may not live to see marriage equality a reality –

…have waited too long.

Young people who want their grandparents to be able to come to their wedding have waited for too long.

Australians of all ages who’ve been told that their love isn’t equal, that their family isn’t real, that their relationship is bad for their children or somehow bad for society, have waited for too long.

The Prime Minister says he supports marriage equality.

And we know that he supports a free vote, not a plebiscite because he said so.

It’s time he did the right thing.

This week, of course, is budget week.

And quite rightly, our focus will be on the economy, on jobs, on health, on education, and the environment.

And as we all know, it is almost certain that by the end of the week, the Prime Minister will be going to the Governor-General asking him to dissolve this Parliament and to call an election.

So, sadly, it is unlikely that this bill will pass this week.

But our push for equality is not going away.

Think of this bill as a marker –

More than that, think of it as a promise. 

A promise that Labor will introduce legislation for marriage equality in the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor Government.

That’s the clear choice. The Liberals’ divisive and expensive plebiscite, a delaying tactic designed to stop marriage equality –

Or a Labor Government which will make marriage equality law.

Let’s get this done – it’s time.



[1] http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/who-supports-equality/a-majority-of-australians-support-marriage-equality/

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SPEECH: Notice of Motion, Federation Chamber, Monday, 2 May 2016

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

NOTICE OF MOTION

FEDERATION CHAMBER

MONDAY, 2 MAY 2016 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

That this House:

Recognises:

 

  1. The importance of effective political and diplomatic relationships and economic exchange between Australia and our region;

  2. A responsible and internationally engaged Australian government is required to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of a changing world.

 

Through much of our history Australia has grappled with the ‘tyranny of distance’ – the fact that we were very far away from the centres of global power.

But now, of course, the world’s centres of economic, political and strategic gravity are shifting towards Asia, creating unparalleled opportunities and unprecedented challenges for Australian policy makers.

China’s GDP approaches, and is likely to overtake, the US. Indeed, on some measures, it already has.[1]

India is the world’s third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity, and is forecast to be the fastest growing major economy in the world from 2016.[2]

Indonesia is now the eighth largest economy in the world on purchasing power measurements, having risen from fourteenth place in 1990.

And all three are seeking a position in the world commensurate with their economic power.

Japan remains the fourth largest economy according to PPP, and its importance to regional strategic consideration continues to grow.

Our economic relationships with our neighbours are becoming ever more important to our national prosperity. At the same time, of course, rising tensions, particularly in the South China Sea, present a challenge for regional economic and strategic stability, with significant ramifications for Australia.

Labor continues to argue that disagreements in the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved in accordance with international laws and norms.

But if we want to insist that other nations play by the rules, we also need to adhere to them.

That’s why Labor has, for example, announced that through bilateral negotiations, or if necessary, with the assistance of the International Court of Justice or a binding international arbitration, we want to fairly and finally settle a maritime border between Australia and Timor-Leste.

Support for a rules based order is also an expression of our values – a sign of our willingness to act as a good global citizen. Just today, we saw a real example of the cost to Australia of not doing so.

The former President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmao, says the Liberal Government’s approach to the maritime border issue is jeopardising Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Labor welcomes the conclusion of a number of free trade agreements in recent years, agreements that were progressed by successive previous governments.

But to seize the opportunities and mitigate any challenges of the Asian century, our engagement with our regional partners has to be deeper and richer than just bilateral trade agreements.

The Hawke and Keating Labor Governments enhanced regional multilateral structures, leaving us with APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The Rudd Government worked to have the United States included in the East Asia Summit, a key regional institution with an open political, security and economic agenda. The Gillard Government secured a strategic partnership with China— the establishment of a new bilateral architecture to guide the future of our relationship.

And, of course, we produced the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. We made sure that the changing dynamics and emerging opportunities of the region were included in every aspect of government decision making.

One of the first things this Government did was to erase that White Paper – an act of electronic book-burning without explanation.

No long-term strategic approach replaced it.

Instead a reflexive, transactional attitude has characterised this Government’s approach to our region.

Its approach to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a prime example.

The Government’s resistance made Australia’s eventual participation seem grudging and half-hearted to our neighbours. It undermined our ability to influence the direction of the Bank from the ground up. We should have gotten in early—we could have had much more influence about setting the rules if we’d done so.

The changes to our region should be considered in all our policy decisions – domestic as well as international.

The Government cites the ‘New Colombo Plan’ as its signature foreign policy. Of course we support students gaining experience in Asia. But a student study program as foreign policy falls well short of the mark.

Under this Government, Australia is missing economic and political opportunities in our region, and is being left behind as our neighbours shape the Indo-Pacific, and the world, of the 21st century.



[1] Previous speech

[2] DFAT Country brief

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SPEECH: Address to the National Press Club of Australia, Wednesday, 10 February 2016

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB OF AUSTRALIA

A SECURE AND PROSPEROUS AUSTRALIA IN A SECURE AND PROSPEROUS WORLD

WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2016 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal People, traditional owners of the land where we meet today, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Acknowledge:

  • Bill Shorten and other parliamentary colleagues, past and present,

  • Members of the diplomatic corps,

  • Dick Woolcott and current and former members of the foreign service,

On my first day in this job, in the press gallery’s tradition of respectful enquiry, I was asked what could have possibly led me to choose the Shadow Foreign Affairs portfolio.

I have been back to look at that answer—to see how I feel about it, two and half years on.

In October 2013, I said my choice was partly inspired by my love of history.

I don’t think you’ll be shocked to hear that I’ve never been a fan of the ‘great man’ theory of history.

The story of the world written as a tribute to an immortal few, deserving to command, taking their citizens by the scruff of the neck and driving them on to glory.

The history that interests me is the more complex story.

The ebb and flow of events, the spark and slow burn of resurgence and decline.

The shifts in power and influence that see nations rise and fall.

Reading about this is one thing, living through it is another.

In this job, loving history helps you know when you are witnessing it firsthand.

And right now, the economic and social transformation we are seeing in our region is remarkable.

And the challenges we face are significant—from terrorism, poverty and inequality, health crises to climate change.

The decisions we make in this decade, and the actions we take as a global community, are writing the history of our era, and defining the future for generations to come.

I want to serve as Foreign Minister in a Shorten Labor Government because I believe there is more, much more, that Australian ideas and values can offer the world.

I believe we can take a broader view.

Australia can be a better international citizen, a more active player in our region and a more creative, more confident presence on the world stage.

We should choose this path of energy and activism, knowing that it serves our national interest.

We see ourselves as a good international citizen and we measure our actions against that.

Above all, the national security and prosperity we are so grateful for can only come from greater international security and prosperity.

There is no more important duty of a government than to keep its people safe and ensure their prosperity.

Ensuring safety at home, by helping secure peace abroad.

Enhancing prosperity in Australia, by extending opportunity in the wider world.

It sounds basic, and in a portfolio that attracts more theories, ‘isms’ and doctrines than many others, simplicity is not always seen as a virtue.

Nor can you spend a life in the Labor movement without encountering a few foreign policy purists along the way.

Idealism will always inform Labor’s ongoing goal of building a better world.

But in foreign affairs, as in economic and social policy, we learned long ago that there is nothing to fear or to lose from pragmatism in the name of progress.

There is no value in pitting the perfect against the good, standing in the way of advances because they are incremental.

As former Congressman Barney Frank recently put it:

‘The opposite of pragmatism is not idealism.’ The opposite of pragmatism is ‘wishful thinking.’

The wishful thinking that whispers Australia is a small country, far away, removed from the problems of the world.  That we don’t need to engage.

And the wishful thinking that, amidst rapid change and the shock of the new, urges a retreat into the comfort of the familiar.

Be it terrorism, war, poverty or climate change, Australia cannot afford to imagine ourselves immune from global threats to security and prosperity.

We cannot rely exclusively on ‘great and powerful friends’ in a world that has fundamentally changed.

We cannot consider ourselves outside the standards and expectations of the rules-based order we exhort others to follow.

And we cannot afford to play spoiler or isolationist in the global response to these threats.

Climate change is already impacting on the island homes of our friends in the Pacific. As Bill, Richard Marles and I saw firsthand on our recent trip to PNG, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, climate change isn’t a ‘political’ argument or an ‘economic’ dilemma. It is an existential threat – a matter of survival for our neighbours.

As the largest per capita emitter of carbon pollution in the OECD, we also have a regional responsibility to our friends in the Pacific.

Yet we went to Paris as a country that has gone backwards on climate change, both domestically and internationally, placing short-term domestic concerns ahead of our long-term national interest and our international reputation.

In this very building a generation ago, Paul Keating urged us to seek security in Asia, not from Asia.

We return to that core principle, the best guarantee of a secure and prosperous Australia is a region and a world of greater security and prosperity.

In seeking this goal Labor looks to the three longstanding pillars of our foreign policy:

  • Our alliance with the United States

  • Our relationships in the Indo-Pacific region

  • And our multilateral engagement with the world

In the Labor Party, we are proud of our history as the architects and authors of Australia’s alliance with the United States.

We value the leadership the United States has offered in our region and around the world. This is why Stephen Smith, while foreign minister, worked to have the United States included in the East Asia Summit, expanding US engagement in our region.

But we have never sought for Australia the tinny badge of ‘deputy sheriff’.

We believe that we are a more valuable ally if we have the maturity and confidence to speak frankly and act independently within the alliance.

Australia will disagree with the United States on occasion.

We should have disagreed in 2003.

The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was a terrible mistake.

The cost in lives, money and the reputational damage to America and other members of the Coalition of the Willing was not matched in gains for Iraq, for the United States, or the world.

Labor opposed the decision to join in the invasion of Iraq.

I spoke against it, I marched against it.

When George W Bush visited our Parliament in 2003, I presented Condoleezza Rice with a letter, signed by 41 MPs, explaining why Labor opposed the invasion of Iraq without United Nations approval.

When presented with the same set of circumstances, I would do so again.

None of this diminished Labor’s commitment to the alliance.

And as two nations with shared histories, mutual interests and common values, as believers in, and defenders of, open economies, free societies and individual liberties, there is so much Australia and the United States can achieve together.

Which is why the US-Australia alliance will always be an important element of Labor’s foreign policy.

In our region, we believe in building institutions and enmeshing ourselves in the Indo-Pacific.

Our economic connections are important, but we believe our connections should be much deeper than the merely transactional.

This was the dominant theme of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper: a whole of government approach, building the people-to-people links that are far stronger and more enduring than anything conjured by summitry.

In an act of pettiness all too typical of this Government, the White Paper has been written out of departmental history; an act of electronic book burning.

This is to the detriment of us all.

In our region in particular, Labor recognises the responsibility we have to promote peace, reduce poverty and tackle inequality among our neighbours.

Being a constructive and considerate member of the Indo-Pacific community is not just the right thing to do.

It is also one of the most sure-fire ways of enhancing Australia’s own long-term safety and prosperity.

When we help our neighbours to succeed, we share in the reward.

The stunning economic growth of countries like Japan, Korea and China has underpinned our own prosperity.

A quarter of a century ago, Malaysia and Thailand were among the largest recipients of Australian aid.

Today, Malaysia is Australia’s eighth largest trading partner, Thailand is ninth.

But it’s not just about trade—strong institutions and good governance in our neighbourhood benefit us too.

Just one example: the strength of the health system in Papua New Guinea is critical to the strength of ours.

If we assist with TB prevention and treatment in PNG, we reduce the very real threat of drug-resistant TB to our citizens in Far North Queensland.

In the 1980s, the US and EU controlled more than 60% of the world economy in nominal terms.

In 2014 that was 46%, and the trend is only heading one way.

The world’s economic centre of gravity is moving to our region.

And with that economic heft comes political and strategic influence.

Measured by purchasing power, India has grown from the ninth largest economy in 1990 to the third largest today.

And as the world’s largest democracy, India is seeking a strategic voice on par with its economic weight.

That’s why Labor in government shifted our focus from the Asia Pacific to the Indo Pacific and deepened our engagement with India.

On the same economic measure, Indonesia has climbed from fourteenth to sixth.

Indonesia too is seeking a greater say in global decision-making.

China’s growth is not the whole story of the rise of Asia, but it is nonetheless a remarkable story.

500 million people lifted out of poverty.

An economic transformation unparalleled in human history.

And Labor is proud of the part we have shared in the China story.

We are proud that Gough Whitlam reached out to China when people said it was folly.

Proud that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating fostered inclusive cooperation in our region, through APEC, when their critics mocked it as vanity and an elitist obsession.

And proud of the work Julia Gillard did to establish regular and formal leader-level meetings between China and Australia—a foreign policy achievement which will only be enlarged by time.

Our history with China means a Labor government would have acted differently on the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank. This was a way to positively work with China to reduce the infrastructure deficit in our region.

Instead, division around the Coalition Cabinet table and botched public diplomacy led it to being seen as a great US-China power struggle, with Australia caught in the middle and China coming out on top.

And it now seems Australia will miss out on a position as one of the vice-presidents of the AIIB, due to our perceived reluctance and late sign-up. We should have gotten in early—we could have had more influence in setting the rules.

Our close economic and diplomatic relationship with China binds us, but it does not blind us.

On the question of relations between China and the United States, and between China and the rest of the region, we are clear sighted.

On the South China Sea, we are not disinterested observers.

We have a national interest in defending freedom of navigation—and in upholding the international system of laws and accepted behaviours.

One-third of the world’s shipping, and 60% of our own exports, transit through the South China Sea.

We’re talking about nearly US$5.3 trillion in total trade passing through the area each year.

It is in no-one’s national interest for heightened tensions to continue.

The most important message Australia can send is to urge all parties, to abide by both the terms and the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It’s in our interests to support the international system.

I would encourage all nations to become parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, including the United States.

The claimants in the South China Sea ought to reconcile their disputes in accordance with the rules-based international order.

Now that there is a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an impartial institution within that system, all claimants should respect the outcome.

It would be disingenuous to ignore that tensions in the South China Sea are dividing our greatest strategic partner and our largest trading partner.

Of course the South China Sea is not the only point of tension in the US-China relationship.

But that does not mean that cooperation is impossible.

After all, in November 2014, China and United States combined their energy and imagination to make an historic joint pledge to cut pollution.

The world’s two biggest polluters and its two largest economies rewrote the dynamics of the Beijing APEC and the Brisbane G20 with that agreement.

Just as, at the recent Paris climate conference, it was largely American and Chinese pragmatism, combined with exceptional French diplomacy, that got the global deal over the line.

Co-operation between the United States and China is as essential to tackling climate change as it is to securing peace in our region.

And the fact that they can work so closely on one issue ought to give us all hope for the others.

For all the good we can do as a player in our region, or in partnership with the United States, our membership of the United Nations carries special responsibilities and unique opportunities.

The United Nations has its flaws—and Labor is not oblivious to them.

But beyond the imperfections inherent in what Kevin Rudd called a ‘necessary democracy among states’, we should never forget or minimise the contribution the United Nations has made to the modern world.

Not just in helping to prevent global war—in the aftermath of two all-consuming conflicts inside thirty years.

But in the setting of agreed human rights standards: as both aspirations and goals for individuals and benchmarks to hold the international community to account.

Global action can and does work.

Small pox, which killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century alone, is gone.

We are on the cusp of eliminating polio.

Remarkably, an AIDS free generation is within our grasp.

We should also acknowledge the Millennium Development Goals.

While not universally successful, under the MDGs the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has more than halved and maternal mortality has almost halved.

Over 6 million people were saved from dying from malaria, and about 37 million people were saved from dying from tuberculosis.

And the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals built on these successes and set an even more ambitious agenda for development.

The international system, with the UN at its core, has driven these successes.

Because of the United Nations, disarmament agreements and peace negotiations, sometimes driven by Australia, have made the world safer. We recognise the work Bob Carr did on the Arms Trade Treaty, Gareth Evans on the Canberra Commission.

We hope that further reform of the Security Council, including of the veto power of Permanent Members, would increase the effectiveness of the Council in responding to future conflicts.

Because of the United Nations, small states have an international voice.

And middle powers like Australia can demonstrate global leadership.

Shamefully, the Liberal Opposition ridiculed the Labor Government’s bid for a place on the UN Security Council and threatened to abandon it.

Hopefully, it is now an accepted piece of bipartisan wisdom that Australia can show leadership at a global level.

And that our interests are well served when Australia has a seat at the top table.

Few on the Australian political spectrum would dispute the centrality of our relationship with the United States, the importance of our region and the value of the multilateral system in the framing of our foreign policy.

Governments and oppositions may differ over emphasis and approach, but there would be broad agreement on the component parts.

To my mind, the biggest difference between the conservative and progressive worldview centres on the question of being a good international citizen. 

For Labor, being a good international citizen is much more than window-dressing or noblesse oblige.

It is a duty at the heart of Ben Chifley’s timeless definition of the Labor mission:

‘working for the betterment of mankind not only here, but anywhere we may give a helping hand’.

This sentiment resulted in Australian waterside workers banning Dutch vessels and ships taking munitions to the Dutch East Indies in 1947 during the Indonesian struggle for independence.

And the Australian labour movement boycotts against apartheid-era South Africa.

It was present in Bill Hayden and Gareth Evans’ work on the Cambodian peace process.

Every Labor generation has faced, and fulfilled, though sometimes imperfectly, its international responsibilities.

Being a good international citizen is also, unquestionably, in our national interest.

We live in a world of ‘problems without passports’.

Climate change, pandemics and terrorism won’t be combated by digging trenches or by throwing up nationalist barricades.

Solutions depend on working proactively within the international system, as we have done through the G20 and OECD, on combating multinational tax avoidance, as just one example.

All countries experience problems with their tax base. But poorer countries find it harder to raise the revenue they need, to invest, to raise their people out of poverty.

Through the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting work we have supported we strengthen our own tax base, but also help poorer nations gather the revenue they need to invest to raise the living standards of their people.

Gareth Evans has argued consistently that there are other, less tangible national interest arguments behind good international citizenship.

For one, it builds a nation’s international reputation, which, over time, works to our economic and strategic advantage.

It helps in Security Council elections, for example.

It helps in dispute settlement to be seen as an honest broker.

There is also the reciprocal benefit—if we act to support the rules-based international order, others are more likely to do the same.

If we stand in solidarity with others during a crisis, they are more likely to help us out when we need them.

This makes the Government’s shambolic response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa all the more difficult to understand.

Despite calls from the Australian Medical Association and the leaders of Australia’s humanitarian agencies, and on numerous occasions the United States, Britain and the United Nations, Australia initially refused to send capable and willing Australian medical professionals into the fight.

When it finally acted, the Government chose an approach that cost eight times more to treat each patient than it cost MSF.

Australia is strongest and safest when we act morally, in support of the international laws and norms that have brought so much benefit to our country.

This is why we must protect and enhance the multilateral rules-based international order, a system that has worked distinctly towards Australia’s peace and prosperity.

Consider the issue of whaling.

In 2010 the Labor Government commenced legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice, seeking to bring an end to their whaling program in the Southern Ocean.

Because both Australia and Japan are paid-up and engaged members of the international system, we were able to settle this dispute peacefully, without damaging our close bilateral relations.

And we were able to secure a win for our environmental and ethical values, in our national interest.

Of course we are disappointed that Japan has resumed whaling and will ignore the ruling of the International Court of Justice.

Australia regularly calls on other countries to abide by international norms and to settle disputes in line with the rules-based system.

If we want to insist that other nations play by the rules, we also need to adhere to them. 

We have a good record in doing so, but not a flawless one. 

Timor-Leste suffered decades of war and starvation before gaining independence. Australia played a key role in securing that independence – a proud moment for many Australians.

The maritime boundary dispute has poisoned relations with our newest neighbour.

This must change, for their sake, and for ours.

A Shorten Labor government will redouble efforts to enter good-faith negotiations with Timor-Leste to settle the maritime boundaries between our two countries.

If we are not successful in negotiating a settlement with our neighbour we are prepared to submit ourselves to international adjudication or arbitration.

It is in the national interest of both Australia and Timor-Leste that we do so, but just as importantly it is in the interest of the system itself that we are willing to freely participate in it.

On 27 June 1945, the day after the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco, the New York Times said of Australia’s Foreign Minister:

“When Dr Evatt came here he was a virtually unknown second-string delegate ... He leaves, recognized as the most brilliant and effective voice of the Small Powers, a leading statesman for the world’s conscience…”

It is true—we are only one voice among many in the international community.

But from time to time that voice is called upon to advocate for our smaller neighbours and to stand up for principles we value.

We should not doubt our capacity, we should not question our station.

We should not minimise our contribution nor downplay our influence.

With energy and activism, our history is still ours to write.

 

With confidence and purpose, our future is still ours to shape.

 

A prosperous and secure Australia, in a secure and prosperous world.


ENDS

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SPEECH: Statement on Indulgence: Recent Terrorist Attacks Around The World, Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 

  

STATEMENT ON INDULGENCE: RECENT TERRORIST ATTACKS AROUND THE WORLD 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2015

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

I rise to speak on indulgence in response to the Prime Minister’s statement on the recent terrorist attacks around the world.

Overnight, we have heard again of yet more attacks – in Tunisia and in Egypt.

This year we have grieved, again and again, for the innocent victims of terrorist attacks.

People going to a concert in Paris. People marching for peace in Ankara. People attending a funeral in Bagdad, or buying bread in Beirut.

People:

  • eating breakfast at a hotel in Mali,
  • or attending university in Kenya,
  • or playing volleyball in Pakistan,
  • or walking down the street in Jerusalem,
  • or leaving work in Parramatta. 

We mourn with those who saw their loved ones go out, on an ordinary day – to catch a bus. To pray, in church or synagogue or mosque. To go to school or work. To catch up with friends at a café or to see a show.

And who will never see them again.

Our deepest sympathies are with the wounded, and our greatest hope is for their recovery from injuries to body and mind.

It breaks our hearts that there are so many families shattered, so many lives lost, so many bodies broken.

It breaks our hearts but does not weaken our resolve.

We are resolved to do everything we can to protect our citizens and our values. The government and the opposition stand together in our commitment to the safety and security of the Australian people, and our commitment to combat terrorists at home, and abroad.

This resolve is a key reason for Australia’s military engagement in Iraq and Syria, our participation in the international mission against Daesh.

We have a responsibility, as good global citizens, to respond to the Iraqi Government’s request for assistance in the fight against Daesh. This year, Australia extended our mission to include air-strikes against targets located in Syria, also under the international legal principle of collective self-defence.

We thank the brave men and women of the Australian Defence Force for the professionalism with which they are carrying out their duties. They are a credit to their country.

Labor’s support for the campaign in Syria and Iraq is based on humanitarian considerations. 

The greatest number of victims of Daesh are those forced to live beneath their brutal rule.

The civil war in Syria has resulted in the gravest humanitarian crisis of our time. Well over 200,000 Syrians have been killed, half the population has been displaced, and the conflict has become a beacon and a breeding ground for extremists.

Syria is of course an exceedingly complex theatre, with a wide range of internal and external actors who have equally wide ranging agendas.

Over-night, with the downing of a Russian plane by Turkish forces, we have seen how this complexity can have tragic and unanticipated consequences.

It is our hope that Turkey and Russia exercise restraint, and that this incident is not allowed to jeopardise the goal of a lasting and durable peace in Syria. We must all redouble our efforts to make that the case.

For as the Prime Minister said yesterday and Labor has consistently argued, “ultimately a political solution is needed in Syria. Only this would allow attention to turn more fully to eliminating ISIL as a military force.”

We have consistently called for a clear strategy for Syria and Iraq—a plan to defeat Daesh and a plan for the day after.

This strategy needs to include a strong and coordinated military response to prevent Daesh from perpetrating its crimes. It also needs to include a political solution in both Syria and Iraq that guarantees the rights of all religious and ethnic communities, and we also require a humanitarian response to prevent a generation of children growing up without an education, without adequate health care, without even a country to call their own.

And while there are a range of views on the correct plan to defeat Daesh on the battlefield, we agree with most in the international coalition that large scale deployment of Western troops is not the correct strategy.

As Hilary Clinton said recently, “If we’ve learned anything from 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that local people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can help them, and we should, but we cannot substitute for them. But we can and should support local and regional ground forces in carrying out this mission.”

I would add that we have to have a clear objective for this assistance – a plan for now, and a plan for when we leave.

As the terrorist attacks this week, this month, this year, have so painfully shown, we must also combat the threat of terrorist attacks within our borders.

French authorities have acted swiftly and strongly against those involved in carrying out the recent attack in Paris, and who were quite possibly planning further attacks.

In Australia, our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies are at the front-line in foiling and disrupting threats to Australians. We have some of the best security and intelligence agencies in the world, and we will continue to give them all our support as they carry out this difficult and necessary task.

We know for certain that our people have stopped attacks on Australians in Australia that would have killed our citizens.

We all know – how can we not know – that it’s possible an attack will not be prevented. It has happened in Australia, at the Lindt Café siege, in attacks on police officers and police employees in Melbourne and Sydney. None of us can be complacent.

But we can all be certain that while terrorist acts may exact a terrible toll, terrorism will not prevail.

Because we have seen that every act of terror prompts a thousand acts of courage.

We saw Adel Termos in Beirut, letting go of the hand of his six year old daughter to throw his arms around a suicide bomber, saving dozens of lives as he lost his own.

We saw Michel Catalano, telling his young employee to hide as the fugitive Charlie Hebdo gunmen came into his business. He faced the danger alone.

And Stephane Sarrade, whose 23 year old son Hugo was killed in the Bataclan Theatre, saying that “I would like to give hope to the next generation. The rest of my life, that will be my work".

Antoine Leiris, whose wife and the mother of his infant son was also murdered in that theatre, wrote an open letter to the terrorists. He said:

“I will not give you the satisfaction of hating you. … You would like me to be scared, for me to look at my fellow citizens with a suspicious eye, for me to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You have lost.  Us two, my son and I, we will be stronger than every army in the world.  …all his life this little boy will be happy and free.  Because you will never have his hatred either."

Great acts of courage – and many smaller ones, no less important.

The students and teachers in Kenya who go to school and to university, every day, despite the threats, despite attacks, despite the fear they must surely feel.

Voices raised in the Marseilles as people were evacuated from the Stade de France.

Hundreds of people stranded in Paris after the attacks, given shelter in the homes of strangers who opened their doors, cooked meals, prepared beds.

As people around the world said, Je Suis Paris, the people in Paris said Je suis en terrasse – I am on the café terrace – as they refused to surrender the everyday pleasures of life.

Those who wanted the world to think of fear when they heard the name of Paris have failed. We will remember instead solidarity and defiance.

Those who wanted the world to think of grief when they heard the name of Beirut have failed. We remember instead courage.

When we remember Ankara, we remember that those who were killed were marching for peace.

When we remember Garissa, we remember that those killed were striving for an education, for learning. The thing that the terrorists fear most.

And every day, in Paris or Sydney, Beirut or Mumbai, we will be in the cafes and the restaurants, at the markets, in our places of worship, at work, at our train-stations, our schools and our offices.

And that is why terrorism will never win.

Because the human spirit is unconquerable.

Violence in the service of ideology can never defeat courage in the name of our common humanity.

 

ENDS

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SPEECH: Address to the Australian Institute of International Affairs National Conference, Monday 19 October 2015

 

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS NATIONAL CONFERENCE 

CANBERRA

MONDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2015 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal People, traditional owners of the land where we meet today, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.  

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Jakub Kulhánek, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Security and Multilateral Issues, Czech Republic
  • The current and former ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps
  • John McCarthy FAIIA, National President, Australian Institute of International Affairs

I thank the Australian Institute of International Affairs for organising this important conference, and giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

 

Introduction

Kofi Annan talked about “problems without passports” – problems which are transnational, even global.  They are the problems which threaten our peace, our prosperity, the health of our people and our plant.

And they are problems which require the co-operation of nations to solve.

Indeed, we can only solve them if we work domestically, regionally and globally.

In facing our problems without passports, we have a threefold task:

Each nation must take necessary action within its borders.

The intensifying effect on global extremism of Iraq and Syria’s inability to deal with Da’esh is an example of failure in one state having an effect on all.

Regional partners must act effectively together.

There was a time when Solomon Islands appeared to be in danger of becoming a failed state. The countries of the Pacific Island Forum responded with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). With participation from every Pacific Island Forum country, and led by Australia, over 12 years RAMSI has seen law and order restored, national institutions rebuilt and Solomon Islands economy reformed.

The global community must work together.

Smallpox, which killed hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century alone, was completely eradicated by the World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication Programme, in a patient and determined 14 year international campaign.

 

Climate change as an example

There are many examples of problems without passports – health epidemics, the current displacement of a record 60 million people world-wide by war and conflict, natural disasters, and economic crises like the Global Financial Crisis.

Today, I’m going to talk about one in particular – climate change. Climate change presents undeniable risks to our own country, our neighbours and to the world.

In Australia, both extreme fire weather and extreme sea-level events have increased.

The $5 billion Great Barrier Reef tourism industry has already felt the impacts of coral bleaching and increased frequency and severity of storms and cyclones. 

From 2020 onwards, the predicted increase in drought frequency is estimated to cost $7.3 billion annually, reducing GDP by 1% per year.

In the Pacific, all of the land area of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, and 97% of the land area of Kiribati, is less than five metres above sea level.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said last year that climate change was “like a weapon of mass destruction”. In the broader Asian region, countries are experiencing declining food security, water shortages, increased prevalence and geographical reach of disease, and more extreme weather events including floods and cyclones.

The UN estimates that without action, worldwide economic losses from natural disasters will double by 2030 – to $200 billion each year.

Estimates for the number of potential ‘climate refugees’ worldwide range upward from 75 million. That is potentially twice as many as the record high number of people displaced today.

If we are seeing the world struggle with mass movements of people now, imagine what the world will look like when that movement is doubled.

 

Good foreign policy starts at home

Just as the consequences of these complex challenges cross countries, regions, and the global community, so do the solutions.

We can’t ask others to do what we’re not prepared to do ourselves.

As Dr Michael Fullilove argued in one of his recent Boyer Lectures, talking specifically about climate change, good foreign policy begins at home.

We can’t expect our relationships with other countries to thrive if we are complacent about a threat that affects us all.

This is as true of climate change as it is of something like Ebola.

A foreign policy approach which looks beyond the next budget or the next election and plans for the next decade and the next century must see credible action on climate change in Australia as important to our global relationships and future security.

We need to do better domestically.

Our government has repealed the carbon price. It has tried to shut down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and this year tried to ban it from investing in solar and wind.

It has tried to axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and did abolish the Climate Commission. And it has tried to abandon the renewable energy target.

Australia's largest energy and emissions market analyst, Reputex, has confirmed under the Australian Government’s current policy carbon pollution levels from Australia's biggest polluters will increase by 20 per cent by 2030.

And for the hard-nosed realists in the room, the cost of shirking our national responsibility can be measured in Australian dollars and jobs.

Last year investment in large-scale renewables dropped by 88 per cent in Australia – while it grew by 16 per cent around the world.

Since the last election, the ABS has found that about 15 per cent of jobs in the renewables sector have vanished.

Labor’s recent announcement of that 50% of our electricity will be generated by renewable energy target by 2030 is proof of our determination to seize back that opportunity, and meet our national responsibility along the way.

Dr Fullilove also points to the missed opportunities for Australia by failing to act as a leader on climate change, both regionally and globally:

“A generation ago – perhaps even a decade ago – Australia might have led the world in finding a market solution to the problem of reducing emissions. It was the kind of thing we did well.” he said.

Just as Australia must act on climate change at home to credibly call for action abroad, we must act in our region to credibly call for action globally.

 

The cost of our current failure to act credibly domestically

In the Pacific, Australia’s responsibility could not be more pronounced.

We are the greatest per capita emitter in the world, and Pacific Island countries are, as the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this month, on the front line of climate change.

Just as our responsibilities at the regional scale are great, so are our opportunities: over $2.5 trillion is expected to be invested in renewables in the Asia Pacific region up to 2030.

Australia has a strong record of engaging with our region, including with institutions like ASEAN.

We have the patience and the capacity to drive complex policy solutions like the Cambodian peace process.

We have the clear avenue to be part of a constructive dialogue through the Pacific Islands Forum. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is engaged in  multi-stakeholder efforts to harness available climate change financial aid in effective and informed ways. Aid effectiveness and capacity building is an area where Australia excels. We should make more of this opportunity for leadership, rather than cracking jokes about the desperate plight of our neighbours.

After Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton was caught on microphone laughing about homes in the Pacific Islands threatened with inundation, Kiribati President Anote Tong said "It shows a sense of moral irresponsibility quite unbecoming of leadership in any capacity…I find that extremely sad, extremely disappointing that we are making jokes about a very serious issue."

He said of Australia and New Zealand:  "We expect them as bigger brothers, not bad brothers, to support us on this one because our future depends on it."

The reputational damage Australia suffers from being viewed as a ‘moral[ly] irresponsible’ ‘bad brother’ hurts more than simply our ability to effectively advocate for and shape a response to climate change. 

It limits our influence in regional and multilateral institutions where we have previously been able to play a strong role advancing our national interest of regional peace and stability.

And the more recalcitrant we are and we’re seen to be, the more difficulty we’ll have in the future negotiating regional and global changes as economic, political and military centres of gravity shift.

Of course, a problem like climate change demands even more than regional cooperation. It’s a global problem that will only be met effectively by global action.

 

The global response

We know already that thoughtful, patient global responses to complex problems can succeed beyond our most optimistic imaginings.

World Health Organisation campaigns have eliminated smallpox and are on the brink of eliminating polio.

Just think about that for a minute. Smallpox, that killed hundreds of millions of people in the twentieth century alone, is gone.

Polio, which stalked Australia so recently that our current Ambassador to the United States, and your next President, Kim Beazley, still has a vivid memory of waking up one morning unable to move, has been eradicated from the western world and is on the brink of being eradicated world-wide.

The number of cases world-wide has dropped from 350,000 cases in 125 counties in 1988 to just 359 cases in 2014.

An AIDS free generation is in sight.

The Millennium Development goals have lifted more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty since 1990.

We have already seen the global community come together on the question of climate change.

In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established. 

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty.

The first official act of the Rudd Government in 2007 was to ratify Kyoto.

Today, partly driven by global negotiations, emissions trading policies are in place for around 1 billion people and more than 40% of the world’s economy.

When China’s recently announced national emissions trading scheme starts in 2017, around 2 billion people and 40% of the world’s carbon emissions will be covered.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is next month.

Australia has a proud history of shaping international agreements, from the founding of the UN onwards.

In Paris, Australia has the opportunity to push for strong and credible action on climate change.

And we should.

But sadly, our influence may be limited.

Right now, we’re seen as a global laggard on climate change.

In fact, a report by the Africa Progress Panel described Australia as a “free-rider” on global efforts on climate change.

The world is perplexed that as the international community moves forwards, Australia is going backwards.

The ETS, which the data shows was working, was dismantled by this government.

Emissions from our electricity sector have subsequently gone up.

 

The larger lessons learnt from the climate change case study

‘Problems without passports’ continue to challenge us and climate change is just one of them.

Yet it underscores two points which apply to Australian foreign policy more broadly.

Firstly, being part of regional and global communities involves both opportunities and responsibilities.

But if you don’t meet the responsibilities, you miss the opportunities.

Because every community is a network of long-term relationships, whose foundation is reciprocity and respect.

Although the questions change, we return to the same relationships, the same regional communities, and the same multilateral institutions time and again.

Our early diplomatic approach with China in the 1970s opened the door to a relationship which has developed and strengthened.

The strategic partnership between Australia and China negotiated by the Gillard Government is one example. CHAFTA is another.

We’ve seen South Korea go from being a recipient of Australian aid to our 4th largest trading partner.

When Labor was last in government, we launched the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper which made sure our changing regional dynamics were considered in every aspect of government decision-making and allowed us to seize those regional opportunities.

Labor matched that strategic thinking with concrete investment in our relationships with the global community, by doubling our aid program and expanding our diplomatic footprint.

And we were grateful to be supported by many of our neighbours in our bid to join the UN Security Council.

The second lesson is that, increasingly, policy-making at the national, regional and global levels cannot be separated from one another.

To take just one example: Labor’s ambition for a growing Australian economy has been expressed in recent years both by our strong support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the elevation of the G20 during the Global Financial Crisis.

We understand these engagements are complementary, not contradictory.

 

Conclusion

I began by quoting Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations on “problems without passports”.

Just last month I was in New York when the world came together to set a new agenda for addressing some of the most persistent of these problems. 193 nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals.

The current Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said these Global Goals compel nations to “look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term.”

Meeting these Global Goals will take action at home.

First we should be prepared to measure our success against these global targets.

And Australia must meet our aid obligations.

In our region, Australia has a responsibility by capacity and proximity to take a leadership role. 

And, working with the international community in multilateral partnerships, our role is also global.

We can’t step up the scale of our ambition, if we start from shaky domestic or regional foundations.  

The Global Goals, like any other international challenge, can only be met through coordinated efforts on all these levels – domestic, regional and global.

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SPEECH: In support of the following motion, Monday 19 October 2015

 

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 

  

SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF THE FOLLOWING MOTION -

That this House calls on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to support a parliamentary debate during the current sitting on the Australian Government’s strategy in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq.

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

MONDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2015

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

For over a year, Labor has offered bipartisan support for Australia’s involvement in the defence of Iraq. From the beginning, along with that support we have called for greater involvement and scrutiny by the Parliament.

On the 9th of September, Labor again called for this Government to outline to Parliament its long term strategy in Iraq and Syria and allow for a proper parliamentary debate.

In 1991, Parliament was specifically recalled for two days to debate the first Iraq War. All 150 members of the House of Representatives spoke.

In 2003, Australia’s commitment to Iraq was again subject to a significant debate in Parliament. In that debate, the Member for Curtin said:

“it behoves this parliament to consider the likelihood that the military action will be over quickly and the Iraqi regime that has so traumatised its own citizenry will be abandoned and in flight. What next? What does the future hold for a liberated Iraq?”

We could very well ask a very similar question about Syria today. If Daesh is degraded and defeated, as we all hope, and if Assad is gone, again as we all hope, what next for the future of Syria?

In 2015, as we have military forces once again deployed in Iraq – and now also in Syrian airspace – the Foreign Minister should once again support that same parliamentary consideration she praised in 2003.

Of course today we see geopolitical complexity even more finely balanced, and a long term strategic outcome even less predictable.

  • Russia has dramatically escalated its involvement, yet its strikes to date appear more targeted at anti-Assad rebel forces than Daesh.
  • The Russian air force’s use of cluster munitions and its rules of engagements risk civilian casualties in great number.
  • Despite an increasing number of countries entering the conflict to attack Daesh, Daesh continues to control large areas of territory in both Iraq and Syria. 
  • The Syrian rebel forces themselves are proliferating and radicalising, leaving fewer “moderate” partners for a future inclusive Syrian national government.
  • The Iraqi Government is increasingly reliant on Iran’s active support, a concerning trend for Australia’s long standing objective to support a non-sectarian, inclusive government in Iraq.

Without a clear and realistic strategy we are talking about the potential for the consolidation of redrawn national borders, the intensification of sectarian violence, the escalation of geopolitical tension, and increasing numbers of displaced people in the region and beyond.

Against this backdrop of heightened uncertainty, the Australian public deserve a clear outline of the strategy for our personnel who are being placed in harm’s way.

Yet the messages that we receive are often mixed.

The Government has said that the objective – and indeed legal basis – for Australian air strikes in Syria is the collective self-defence of Iraq.

And yet the Foreign Minister has also said that Australia’s involvement in Syria would be complete: 

“When the terrorist organisation is prevented from carrying out attacks on the civilian populations in Syria and Iraq”.

The Government has talked about in the past the illegitimacy of the Assad regime – which has killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens.

And yet on the 25th of September, the Australian newspaper reported that the Foreign Minister’s position had changed, and that Assad is now ‘part of the solution’.

Labor remains prepared to support a strategic plan which will address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria.

But we need to know, and more particularly the Australian public deserve to know, they are entitled to hear the debate it in the parliament that would answer these long term questions, to know how this increasingly complex scenario will be resolved in the Government’s view.

 

 

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Speech: Address to the Australian Council for International Development National Conference, Sydney, Friday 16 October 2015

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 

 

ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT NATIONAL CONFERENCE 

SYDNEY

FRIDAY, 16 OCTOBER 2015

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY*** 

 

Introduction – 50 years of ACFID

It is a great pleasure to be here for another ACFID National Conference.

2015 is an auspicious year, marking 50 years of advocacy by [the organisation now known as] ACFID.

And it’s terrific that this year Patrick Kilby has written a book charting the last 50 years – reminding us about the important role ACFID has played over time as a commentator, advocate, lobbyist, and networker.

In the early days of ACFID, in 1974, Gough Whitlam said:

In aid matters ….. my Government is keen to have the benefit of  [the] advice of interested members of the community ….so as to enable …… advice and objective criticism on aid operations.

And Labor continues to stands by this commitment.

You are a critical voice for aid.

Over the last 50 years you have lifted Australia’s ambition to play a meaningful role in reducing poverty and delivering the benefits of development to millions of people around the world.

Just consider for a moment how much effort, how many hours, and the number of volunteers, committee members and dedicated individuals that have worked within the sector over the last 50 years.

And think also of how many people in developing countries have had their lives transformed because of your efforts.

Not just through health, education and agricultural programs. 

The aid sector has also contributed to building civil movements that have achieved important outcomes for democracy, equality and justice.

For example, the campaign against apartheid.

You have raised funds and you have raised community consciousness.

Congratulations ACFID on 50 years – we look forward to the next 50.

Sustainable Development Goals

In July I was at the Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development, and not too long ago I returned from the special session of the United Nations in New York, where the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the 193 member states of the United Nations.

In the lead up to the adoption of the goals, I have to confess I experienced some nervousness.

The beauty of the Millennium Development Goals, was that they were a shorter list, easier to explain and remember, with a tighter focus.

And that tight focus has seen substantial success:

-      The target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half of 1990 rates was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline.

-      More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990.

-      The number of out-of-school children of primary school age worldwide fell by almost half, to an estimated 57 million in 2015, down from 100 million in 2000.

-      Between 1990 and 2015, the number of deaths in children under five worldwide declined from 12.7 million to almost 6 million.

I suppose it’s natural when a set of eight familiar, tightly focussed and successfully prosecuted goals is replaced by goals which are unfamiliar, broader and perhaps more diffuse, that people like me who like goals and targets become nervous.

But I’m a convert, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, goals and targets work, especially when they are ambitious.

  • They focus your effort.
  • You know what you are aiming for and you can measure your progress.
  • You are accountable to yourself and others.
  • Most importantly, when you meet your targets you can set new, more ambitious targets.

And after 15 years, the time has come for those more ambitious targets.

Second, while many of the development challenges we face have stayed the same, much has changed since 2000.

The SDGs recognise that answering the great challenges of our time, such as climate change, is critical to a fairer and more prosperous future for us all.

The Global Goals recognise the interdependent nature of the global development task.

They recognise that countries start from different places and come with different needs and priorities.

But they do have one very simple aim, the one aim to unite them all, “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

The Global Goals are broader than the MDGs because they reflect a wider consultation process involved in developing them.

But they are also broader because we now have a deeper understanding of the importance that both social justice and environmental protection play in economic growth and development.

It is now relatively uncontroversial to say that inequality hampers growth.

The IMF, OECD, Reserve Bank of England, and various Nobel economists are all saying that more equal growth is good for the rich as well as the poor, and that more equal growth equals longer, stronger, and higher growth.

It is now undeniable that climate change will have, and in places is already having, a particularly savage effect on developing nations.

This of course includes nations in the Pacific which have contributed little carbon pollution to the atmosphere, but are feeling climate change in their everyday lives already.

At the same time we face acute development challenges as millions of people are displaced by conflict across the world.

There is a real potential for the current refugee crisis to become more catastrophic if many more people are also displaced by the affects of climate change.

There have never been more displaced people in the world as there are today: 60 million people have fled their homes because of dispossession, violence and persecution.

It is simply not possible for us to achieve our development objectives without addressing the causes and consequences of displacement.

As we know, conflict and displacement in the Middle East has robbed a generation of children living in camps and temporary accommodation of a proper basic education.

It has put ranks of children into dangerous and unpaid or underpaid employment, and created incentives for child marriage.

Basic services are beyond the reach of millions of displaced people.

As conflict drives those millions from their homes, it is inexplicable that we would not act to prevent a further wave of migrants, displaced by conflict and climate change.

It’s clear that with new global challenges like this, our aid program needs to change too.

In 1974 Gough Whitlam said:

improvements in aid must be affected …. in … formulating policy, in ensuring greater attention to the … effects of our aid, in evaluating the effectiveness of our various schemes, in bringing greater expertise into our staffing ..and in more directly associating the community with the program.”

And Gough’s observations remain true today, as we transition from the MDGs, to the more ambitious and more comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals.

There is no lack of will to work hard and do well in this sector.

But challenges change; the available solutions change; the countries and regions of focus change; and there is always more for us to learn and do.

And our lessons have to be shared locally, regionally and globally to achieve the very best development outcomes.

So, today I am pleased to announce that a future Labor Government will provide greater certainty and more support to Australian NGOs to make sure you are well placed to meet global development challenges.

A Shorten Labor Government will provide an additional $30 million a year to the Australian NGO Cooperation Program from 2017-18.

Our commitment is for new and additional funding to the aid program. And we commit to enhancing – not eroding – the ANCP.

Many of you will recall that in 2011 Labor’s Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced a doubling of ANCP funding - from $69 million in 2010‑11 to at least $150 million by 2014-15.

Since the 2013 election, the current government has cut funding from Labor’s forward estimates and created a great deal of uncertainty for NGOs.

My announcement today will restore the cuts and bring funding in line with Labor’s 2011 commitment.

Australian NGOs are among the best in the world. You do outstanding work; what you do works on the ground. 

We will support you to operate with certainty in delivering an effective Australian aid program.

The SDGs call on partners to work together on policy development and implementation, to share knowledge and expertise and to measure and to report on progress on sustainable development.

Today I am announcing that a Shorten Labor Government will provide $10 million each year from our first Budget in 2017-18 to build our partnerships, increase the effectiveness of our programs, and ensure we are getting the most from every single dollar spent on aid.

As part of this new program we will support planning, research, evaluation and greater collaboration across the sector – with funding available to NGOs, academia, government, and the philanthropic and private sector. This will mean that we will continue developing our aid evidence base, our measurement and reporting on aid effectiveness, and we will know just how well we are shaping up against our targets.

This funding will help us to share with the world the remarkable Australian expertise in areas like anti-corruption and good governance; disability inclusive aid; treating preventable blindness; WASH; and of course, efforts toward improving gender equality.

Today I am also pleased to announce that Labor will restore accountability to the Australian aid program by reintroducing the annual Ministerial Budget statement or “Blue Book” on overseas aid.

As you know this was axed in 2014. 

Under Labor, the “Blue Book” will again be released each year with the Federal Budget and will show how overseas aid is being allocated by sector, country, region, and against our SDG targets. 

Finally, today I am announcing that a Shorten Labor Government will legislate for transparency and accountability to improve aid effectiveness.

In consultation with our partners we’ll develop legislation that will set out our objectives for the aid program, and our requirements for the measurement and reporting of outcomes - including the production of the “Blue Book”.

And among other things, we will set out our commitment to poverty eradication and reduction, gender equality, responsible environmental outcomes, institutional strengthening and anti-corruption.

Legislation will also set out our arrangements for the independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the aid program.

The announcements I have made today begin a process that will repair the aid program.

The overseas aid program is the weakest it has ever been in Australian history.

By 2016 Australia will spend just 22 cents in every $100 of our national income on overseas aid – our lowest spend ever. Over the next decade, that is set to fall further to 17 cents in every $100.

At the Australian Labor Party National Conference this year, Labor made clear our support for the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as our commitment to Australia once again leading in international development.

We have committed to supporting the aid program, not gutting it.

The task that we face in moving ahead from the Government’s damaging cuts will be very hard and it will not happen quickly.

But Labor will always do better.

Because we believe in the aid program and respect the work that you do.

Once again, thank you for inviting me here today.

ENDS

 

 

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SPEECH: Security and Military Engagement in Uncertain Times, Australia Strategic Policy Institute, Wednesday 9 September 2015

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SPEECH TO THE AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE

Security and Military Engagement in Uncertain Times

AUSTRALIA STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE, CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2015 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

 

INTRODUCTION

“The Fog of War” describes the inevitable uncertainty of decision making in conflict.

19th century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz said:

“War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”

Robert MacNamara, former US Secretary of Defence and architect of the Vietnam War went so far as to say:

“war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, is not adequate.”

Notwithstanding all these uncertainties, as leaders we are sadly called on again and again to make decisions on military engagement.

There is no more serious a decision, in Australia’s case at the prerogative of the Executive, than to deploy our armed forces and place them in harm’s way.

So, when should we use military force given all those inherent uncertainties?

Labor’s approach to decision making, is based on the assessment of facts and is guided by our values:

  • There is no more important duty of a government than to keep its people safe.
  • The peace, security and stability of our region, and the world, is in Australia’s national interest. It’s hard to be secure in an insecure world.
  • It is in Australia’s national interest to be good international citizens –because international co-operation, multilateralism, the rule of law and international institutions are the best way to ensure a secure and stable international order.
  • Human rights violations, inequality and poverty, are a threat to Australia’s long term interests wherever they occur because they create the conditions which all too often, lead to instability and conflict.

I am not suggesting that there is a simple formula that allows an easy conclusion on military action.

That would certainly be a dangerous oversimplification.

Labor also believes military engagement can’t be devised or judged in isolation from its strategic objectives – the end game that we are seeking.

Military engagement is tactical – it is a means to a strategic or political end.

And this places a necessarily weighty responsibility on decision makers - to have a plan for the day after, and for the decade after that.

…. To be able to articulate a strategic objective that would yield an outcome, so significant, that it justifies the serious and terrible decision to place Australian lives at risk.

I would suggest that never has it been more necessary to have a view about the end game, nor perhaps more difficult in the current circumstances facing the Middle East.

In one of the many conversations I have had on this issue, I was reminded that anyone with an understanding of the Middle East over the last 15 years should be familiar with the law of unintended consequences. That intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.

And the situation we face is immensely complex.

Australia has been asked to help Iraq defend itself which is a worthy endeavour, but we need to look beyond that.

The Middle East is currently undergoing its most significant reshaping since World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The extent of the fallout from conflict and extremism was recently described by David Petraeus as a geopolitical Chernobyl.

Australia needs to guard against being dragged into a fiendishly complex proxy war where a range of countries in the region will feel compelled to pursue their own interests.

 

CURRENT ENGAGEMENT

I want to begin with Australia’s 2014 military engagement in Iraq, and the basis for Labor’s support – before considering the extension of Australia’s engagement that was announced today.

It was just over a year ago that most Australians became aware of a new force seeking to violently reshape the Middle East, and the world.

The organisation which calls itself Islamic State has its antecedents in Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in Iraq - organisations that we came to understand something about. But even a year ago we had very limited information about Daesh relative to the danger it presents today.

When Daesh took control of the Iraqi city of Mosul in early June 2014, it was a watershed moment for the organisation – not just because the world’s attention turned to the wider threat it posed -  but because its military success delivered it a breakthrough in recruitment of foreign fighters.

On 25 June 2014, Iraq wrote to the UN Security Council, requesting urgent assistance from the International community to assist it to respond to the onslaught of Daesh.

Iraq reported that Daesh had been terrorizing its citizens - carrying out mass executions, persecuting minorities and women and destroying mosques, shrines and churches.

Significantly, Iraq reported that Daesh had organised military operations from across the Syrian border, had taken control of border crossings, and that thousands of foreign terrorists were moving at will across the Syrian border.

In early July at Mosul’s Great Mosque, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared that he stood at the head of a Caliphate, a Muslim state already spanning Syria and Iraq and with ambitions to expand globally.

In September last year the Iraq government reported that Daesh had established a safe haven outside of Iraq that made borders impossible to defend, and made a further request for international assistance to strike Daesh in both Iraq and Syria.

Soon after, the Australian Government joined the international coalition against Daesh, relying on the doctrine of collective self-defence as legal authority.

The result is Operation OKRA - the Australian Defence Force's contribution to the international effort in Iraq. It involves around 800 ADF personnel, up to 8 strike fighters and supporting aircraft -  at a cost of around $650 million over two years.

As you all know Labor supports this Operation, and our reason is principally and overwhelmingly humanitarian.

We accepted that as a member of the international community, Australia has a responsibility to protect; to respond to a legitimate request from the Iraq government and join with other nations to protect vulnerable civilians from mass atrocity crimes.

We also formed the view that a legal authority existed through a legitimate request made by the Iraq government.

Not insignificant to our consideration was the Iraq Government’s assessment that its aspirations for a more inclusive and democratic Iraq, and modest gains it had made, would be thoroughly undermined by Daesh.

I am not going to pretend that Iraq was exhibiting consistent or significant progress on political and democratic reform - but for the first time in many years we could see inching gains in in the right direction including Nouri al-Maliki’s replacement by Haider al-Abadi. 

 

LEGAL BASIS

I can’t understate the importance to Labor of establishing a clear legal basis under international law for Australia’s military engagement.

I am compelled to mention the dangerous statement by the Prime Minister that the terrorists don’t respect the border, why should we.

I will tell you why.  It is in Australia’s long term national interest to respect and uphold international laws and norms, and it’s in the interest of all nations that we continue to set an example by doing so.

If we ask others to respect borders and comply with international laws intended to preserve peace – we must subject ourselves to those same laws.

While the UN Charter prohibits the use of force by any member state against any other state, there is an express exception for self-defence and collective self-defence.

A great deal has been written about the interpretation and application of Section 51 of the Charter, and there is a well-developed principle of collective self-defence.

A requesting state must issue a legitimate request – in this instance being Iraq’s request for international assistance via the UNSC; and the requesting state must have been the subject of an armed attack – and we’ve witnessed the unrestrained violence of Daesh in Iraq.

An intervening state must also act out of a general interest in preserving international peace and security – in this case defending against the regional and global threat posed by Daesh.

But a legal basis for action determines only whether the Executive can involve Australia in conflicts, not whether Australia should be engaged.  It is a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for involvement.

Section 51 creates no obligation to offer our military assistance, nor does it permit a conclusion on whether it is right or wise or good to become involved in the conflicts of other nations.

 

EXTENDING OUR ENGAGEMENT

Today the Australian Government announced an extended contribution to the defence of Iraq.  Australian aircraft will have further flexibility to conduct airstrikes against Daesh in Syrian territory.

First a couple of facts:

Over the last year, seven nations – the US, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have already been conducted airstrikes in Syria.

Of the total 6,550 airstrikes – already 40 per cent of these have been in Syria.

As you can see the Coalition already has a significant presence in Syria.

This does not mean that today’s decision on Australian engagement is not significant for us.

It is very significant to intervene militarily into another country, particularly in the absence of a UN resolution.

The Labor party has agreed to support the government’s decision, and I want to outline some of our considerations in doing so.

Iraq has specifically requested international support to defend itself against cross-border attacks by Daesh that the Syrian government is either unable or unwilling to prevent.

By doing so Iraq has established legal authority under the principle of collective self-defence. 

Labor sought its own advice on the application of the principle, and we agree that it applies.

Labor’s support is also subject to several requirements:

  • First, we have asked for a commitment that Australian operations in Syria are limited to support of Iraq’s collective self-defence.

Labor will not support mission creep that risks dragging Australia into a military quagmire. We have sought assurances that any Australian use of force will be limited to the defence of Iraq, be proportionate to the threat to Iraq, and be subject to international law.

  • We have also asked for Government assurance, in advance of extended operations, that an effective combat search and rescue capability will be in place to meet the additional risks, if the worst happens and RAAF personnel are downed in hostile territory.

As Peter Jennings has pointed out today, this new territory presents significant additional dangers for our personnel. We owe it to our defence personnel to have specific arrangements in place to protect them.

  • Third, we have urged the Government to engage with the UN, and to formally notify the UN Security Council about Australia’s decision.

An important point I have made consistently on this issue – which Peter also made in interviews today - is that Australia is a consequential middle power, and our role militarily must be matched by renewed efforts toward a long-term, multilateral strategy to resolve the Syrian conflict.

We should recall that Australia has played a role in brokering peace out of seemingly intractable conflict before.

The Australian peace proposal for Cambodia produced a durable and lasting peace in that country.

  • Fourth we have called on the Prime Minister to address Parliament and outline Australia’s long term strategy in Iraq and allow for appropriate parliamentary discussion.

In 1991, the first Iraq War was the subject of a parliamentary debate in which all 150 members of the House of Representatives spoke.

In 2003, Australia’s commitment to Iraq was again considered in a substantial parliamentary debate, in which Tony Abbott said:

“All of us as human beings as well as members of this parliament—members of political parties, governments and oppositions—owe it to our constituents and to the wider Australian public to explain where we stand on this issue.”

I am not attempting in this forum to open a debate on the prerogative powers of the Executive. No matter whether you are a supporter of prerogative powers or supporter of parliamentary decision making, no one can disagree that members of parliament should have an opportunity to debate these important issues.

There has been no significant parliamentary debate initiated by the Government on the issue of either Iraq or Syria.

 

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

I want to make a few observations about bipartisanship.

Bipartisanship on issues of national security and international relations is usually in Australia’s best interests. It is right and appropriate that we seek to understand, and if possible support, the Government when matters of national interest are at stake.

We have maintained a clear bipartisan position on the current Operation OKRA – as I have said Labor is convinced that the defence of Iraq and protection of its people requires the assistance of the international community.

If the Government is genuinely looking for bipartisanship on important and complex matters it might in future consider putting more effort into working cooperatively with our Shadow Ministers.

It's extraordinary that the first time the proposal on extended operations was floated publicly the Government sent out a backbencher without any clear proposal, without any explanation to the Australian people of what the legal basis would be, what the mission would be, what success would look like, what our personnel would be expected to do and how this would fit in with what the rest of the international community is doing.

Labor has been asked to support a decision which we would be responsible for implementing should the government change in a years’ time.

It’s not appropriate that we first hear about it is by reading the front page of the newspaper.

It is also extraordinary that multiple requests by me and by my colleagues for briefings have been refused and that briefings have been cancelled without notice and not rescheduled.

Labor has a very effective Shadow Cabinet Committee structure, including a Shadow National Security Committee 

Shadow Ministers on the Committee quite reasonably expect to have detailed information available to them before agreeing to support to military action. And each Shadow Minister of course has questions relevant to their portfolio.

 

A STRATEGIC APPROACH

I said earlier that military engagement is a tactic – which will not comprehensively resolve the situation in the Middle East -  in particular the catastrophe that has engulfed Syria.

The Prime Minister said today... our objective [is] to work towards governments in the Middle East which do not commit genocide against their own people nor permit terrorism against ours.

The Foreign Minister has said that Australian’s mission in Syria would be complete “When the terrorist organisation is prevented from carrying out attacks on the civilian populations in Syria and Iraq”.

Our objectives for the Middle East need to be much more significant than defeating Daesh.

In Iraq, our involvement it is to allow Iraq to stand on its own two feet by supporting internal efforts toward peace and security.

The recent history of Iraq reminds us of the dangers of tactics without a comprehensive and realistic strategy.

We “won” the last war, and Saddam Hussein was overthrown, but there was no strategy to govern, no vision of what the day after and the decade after would look like.  The people of Iraq has suffered the consequences ever since.

The vacuum that was left created rallying points around the sectarian and ethnic fractures of the region – and was the breeding ground for AQ, AQI and Daesh.

The de Ba’athification of the public sector and demobilisation of the army were disasters and that fed sectarian division and recruits for AQ and Daesh which boasts senior Baathists among its leadership.

A solution for the Middle East demands diplomatic efforts and the revival of a political solution.  In particular, no one should believe that Syria can be bombed to peace.

The immense scale of displacement and suffering and the impacts of the Syrian conflict on neighbouring countries and Europe along with the increasing threat of Daesh and its territorial ambitions may now be so compelling that there is new hope for a political outcome.

Alan Behm has recently observed that we are coming very close to a situation so fractured that, no one is being served by the status quo. Renewed efforts may break the impasse.

There have been roadblocks to effective UN action before now but this may be the moment they can be worked past. The US-Iran nuclear deal has been negotiated. There are reports that Russia is demonstrating an interest in a resolution to this conflict because of the risks it poses to its regional interests.

There are also reports of Russia’s desire to work with an international coalition – which would require more than careful navigation with the interests of so many parties in outcomes for Syria – Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey, Kurds, the list is extensive.

The humanitarian crisis in the region also demands a more significant response.

We cannot let a generation of children grow up in refugee camps and temporary accommodation with no access to a proper education.

And we cannot allow neighbouring countries, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to shoulder the burden any more.

Alan Behm points out that poverty, economic exploitation, inequality, youth alienation and dispossession create the hot house for extremist recruitment and anti-western sentiment.

Iraqis and Syrians displaced in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are vulnerable to these influences.

In Syria we must use all available diplomatic and political means to secure support from the international community to developing a durable solution to the current crisis.

This engagement should focus, in the short term, on providing safe havens and humanitarian access in Syria, meeting the urgent humanitarian assistance needs of the region.

In the longer term support an inclusive political process which can resolve the conflict in Syria.

Labor welcomes the Government’s announcement of an additional 12 000 humanitarian refugee places to assist people affected by the crisis in Syria. 

Labor also welcomes the announcement of $44 million in additional humanitarian relief funding for the crisis in Syria, but we call on the Government to match Labor’s proposal of $100 million in additional funding given the enormous need.

 

CONCLUSION

I want to end with a reflection on the Labor tradition and what we hope to bring to decision making in these uncertain and complex times.

In 1965, when the Australian Government had made the decision to send Australian troops to Vietnam, Arthur Calwell said:

"When the drums beat and the trumpets sound, the voice of reason and right can only be heard in the land with difficulty. 

His message was that decisions on matters like military involvement require courage and conviction, must reject populism and guard against recklessness.

And in that tradition the Australian Labor Party will continue to contribute to decisions on the side of reason, in the cause of humanity, and always in the interests of Australia's national security.

ENDS

 

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SPEECH: Africa Down Under Conference, Tuesday 2 September 2015

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

SPEECH TO THE AFRICA DOWN UNDER CONFERENCE

PERTH

TUESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2015

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In foreign affairs, a course must be charted not for one year, or five, or even ten. 

The fall of the Berlin Wall did not just shake Germany in 1989, it shaped a generation of Europeans.  The aftermath of September 11 is still changing the world and has changed the course of history. 

Similarly, the rise of the Asian tiger economies and the transitions of African states to democracy and prosperity are changes which will play out over generations.

Foreign ministers must think in decades.

And if we think in decades, it is immediately apparent how important Africa is to Australia’s future.

Africa is growing fast.

The population of Africa is expected to reach 4.2 billion, more than 35 per cent of total global population, by 2100. Nigeria’s population – already at 180 million will likely be greater than the United States by 2050.

African nations are developing fast, and they are developing at a time when new technologies and the lessons of the past make it possible to leapfrog many economic pitfalls and development challenges. 

African nations can draw lessons from traditional growth trajectories which have sometimes led to the ‘middle income trap’ – where economic growth and export markets have stagnated for lack of local demand, sufficient investment, and economic diversification. 

African nations can draw on these lessons to create more environmentally sustainable growth and more equal growth - the ‘traditional’ growth trajectories of Western and Asian nations do not need to apply to Africa in the 21st century.

Africa has the youngest population in the world.  Two of every three Africans are under the age of 25. And Africa’s population will stay young as developed countries age.

Primary school enrolment has risen by 26 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa – which represents more than double the number of children enrolled in primary education between 1990 and 2012, from 62 million to 149 million. In Northern Africa primary school enrolment has reached 99%.

The half of the population under twenty will be the best educated generation their nations have ever seen, but their children will surpass them by as much again. In our global economy, and with the right investment, Africa can expect to have a highly educated, high income and mobile workforce.

There are now 25 African democracies, though many are still negotiating the transition, and many more have held elections, imperfect but worthwhile.

Conflict is diminishing.The peace dividend to economic growth is being realised by many African nations. For example in the creation of multi-country integrated energy, transport and customs regions - like the East African Community’s Northern Transport corridor.

Global commentators, from the Economist to the World Bank, see Africa on the brink of an economic take-off.

High population growth and strong economic growth mean growing demand, growing purchasing power, and growing opportunity.  But it is not just the rate of growth that matters, it is the quality of that growth. 

Half of the world’s fastest growing economies may be in Africa, but so are 19 of the world’s 23 poorest countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth rate, excluding South Africa, is consistently above 5 per cent and has touched 6 per cent in recent years — and yet sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest child mortality rate in the world, with 98 deaths for every 1,000 live births

Economic growth alone will not overcome these challenges – just as economic growth does not guarantee a more equal, or a more free, society. Private sector and free market progress and growth are welcome, but as Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and one of the world's leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty, argues, there are elements to the poverty trap that require intervention to overcome.

The great news is that tackling poverty is good for economic growth.

It is now widely understood and accepted that inequality is a drag on growth. Both the OECD and the IMF have found this to be the case. The OECD found that increasing income inequality by 1 Gini point lowers GDP per capita growth by around one tenth of one percentage point per year, in the long run.

If economic growth in Africa disproportionally benefits elites and widens the wealth gap, the continent’s rise will slow and even stall.

Human rights and environmental stewardship are critically important to Africa’s development trajectory. If unregulated resource extraction pollutes and ruins agricultural industries, GNP may briefly rise but poverty will worsen. If citizens can’t rely on the rule of law and their rights before the law, they have no incentive to build their own businesses and invest in others'.  

Across the continent, infrastructure investment and strong institutions are patchy. Forty billion potential work hours are lost each year owing to people being unable to open a tap in their homes for water and instead needing to fetch water from another source. Hours of business productivity lost due to power black outs; hours or days are lost in transport time due to poor roads and infrastructure. 

I saw this first hand in Ethiopia and South Africa a few months ago.

I also saw the extraordinary plans for transformation.

These plans obviously provide business opportunities for Australian companies.

We are accustomed to talk about digital disruption and new technologies in the context of our own economy, but in African economies these tools are even more transformative. Only 2 per cent of households in sub-Saharan Africa have landlines, but 83% of Ghanains, 82 per cent of Kenyans, 73 per cent of Tanzanians own mobiles. They use them to check the market price of crops or fish so they can get a better price.  They bank, transfer money, pool information about weather and crop conditions.

Mobile phone technology can also be used in health and education.  For example, expectant mothers can receive SMS reminders during pregnancy from medical clinics.

They are a gateway to information, communication and empowerment, 21st century technology vaulting the last hundred years.

Africa’s biggest windfarm and biggest hydroelectric dam are both under construction. The decreasing cost of renewable energy generation as technology develops is making clean energy not only the environmentally best but also the cheapest way to bring power to remote areas.

As well as our expertise in mining, Australia has some of the biggest solar and wind resources in the world. Again, this represents another mutually beneficial business opportunity for Australia in Africa.

Our region, the Indo-Pacific is pressing into Africa at a remarkable pace.

Africa's exports to China increased at an annual rate of 48 per cent between 2000 and 2005.China has accelerated its drive to draw Africa into the Maritime Silk Road. Apart from building railroads, highways and airports, China is developing 12 deep water ports, seven of which are along the African coastline.

Returns on investment in Africa are among the highest in the world. Private capitalnow exceeds official development assistance.

This is the time to be increasing our presence in Africa, not pulling away. Unfortunately, the Australian government has reduced our footprint in Africa.

The Abbott Government cancelled plans to open an Australian embassy in Senegal, which would have strengthened our engagement with francophone Africa and West Africa.  The previous Labor government decided to expand our diplomatic footprint in Africa in order to build long-term and credible Australian partnerships with the countries of Africa.

We have cut our aid – aid which has gone to meeting the preconditions for economic growth, like reducing child mortality, and increasing primary school education.  Sub-Saharan African countries, which have struggled most to meet the Millennium Development Goals, have been very badly affected, with 70 per cent cut to their aid from Australia. The Middle East and North Africa region has been slashed by 82 per cent.

Australia’s development assistance programmes have been known for their high quality and concrete outcomes. Programs like one I visited in Feche, in Ethopia, run by aid organisation Plan, and funded by the Australian Government. That program provides books, through the “donkey library”, for children who otherwise would never see them; provides preschool education for children who would otherwise have none; provides information on child and maternal health in an area that has a shockingly high rate of child and maternal mortality.

This is just one of the programs that has been defunded.

The damage to Australia’s reputation as a good global citizen is immense, but so too is the damage to our long-term economic interests. We have seen in our own region how emerging economies, given a small amount of assistance at the right moment in history, can move from aid recipients to major trade partners. South Korea is one shining example.

Now is the time for Australia, and the international community, to look at the ways in which our private sector engagement, our aid, and our expertise, can marry with new technology to both meet long-standing needs and develop innovative new ways to hurdle the middle-income trap ahead.

Of course aid alone cannot pull nations or individuals out of poverty, aid underpins many of those things that are the rungs on the ladder out of the poverty trap. Education. Health care. Clean drinking water. Aid can also provide expertise that fragile states may not have yet built themselves – not just in health care, in engineering, but in administration, public service, in building the bureaucratic institutions which ensure accountability and promote efficiency.

And while many African nations have benefitted from reduced conflict in recent years, conflict continues in some countries – and new threats emerge, such as Boko Haram.  All countries around the world are grappling with the problem of extremist violence. None of us can meet it without international co-operation and co-ordination.

Many of the strongly growing African economies are heavily based around resource extraction. It will be critical for Africa’s future that those nations manage the long-term sustainability questions around commodities exports, the environmental consequences of resource extraction, and the need for economic diversification. These are questions Australia has grappled with, and expertise Australia can bring to the table.

This is a natural area for private sector partnership.

Australian companies have invested heavily in Africa. There are over 200 Australian mining companies with more than 700 projects operating in Africa and our bilateral merchandise trade with Africa more than doubled between 2009 and 2013. Africa is now the largest international market for Australian resource, mining and mining equipment companies.

We hope that conferences like this one provide even greater opportunities for co-operation between Australia and Africa.

Many of you work in the extractive industries, and so you know that these can be huge generators of national wealth in Australia and in Africa. You would have also been closely following international moves towards greater transparency.

Civil society, government and business all have a stake in greater transparency in the extractive industries: civil society wants new avenues to pursue an anti-corruption agenda; government must increase its capacity to mobilise domestic resources; and business needs a level playing field and greater trust in the institutions which underpin investment.

Lack of transparency in corporate affairs shelters corruption, and tax avoidance and profit shifting deprive developing nations of desperately needed tax revenue – by one estimate, as much as 4 per cent of their GDP.  Countries receiving the full value of their commodities can build infrastructure and institutions to support further sustainable economic growth.

My shadow parliamentary secretary, Matt Thistlethwaite, has been working with “Publish What You Pay”, an international network of civil society organisations, governments and corporations. They are campaigning for a global standard requiring large corporations – both listed and unlisted – to disclose payments to governments for mining, oil and gas projects.

If more African nations can find the right policy settings, to vault over some of the worst hazards of the traditional development trajectory, not just Africa but the world will benefit immeasurably. If more African nations can find ways to translate their current exceptional economic growth to long-term sustainability, then the 35 per cent of the world’s population living in Africa in 2100 will lead extraordinary lives.

But this will require us to do far more than simply hope for the best. Africa’s recent history is cause for hope, but far better, it is cause for enthusiasm. It is cause for deeper, stronger engagement.  It is cause for us to look not five, not ten, but thirty and fifty years ahead and ask what our two ancient continents will achieve together.

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SPEECH: ALP National Conference, Seconding Chapter One of the National Platform – Labor’s Enduring Values, Friday 24 July 2015

 

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

SPEECH TO THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY’S NATIONAL CONFERENCE

SECONDING CHAPTER ONE OF THE NATIONAL PLATFORM – LABOR’S ENDURING VALUES

MELBOURNE EXHIBITION AND CONVENTION CENTRE, MELBOURNE 

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Delegates, I am delighted to second this chapter.

This chapter is about our proud Labor history.

One that guides us, and shows us what’s possible.

It both inspires and steels us.

And it captures what is enduring about our great Labor project.

Over time, the issues may change, the challenges may change.

But our project is the same.

To work with rank and file members, with civil society, with our friends in the union movement, and in our parliaments -

To lift up all our people.  To spread opportunity.

That’s what runs from our roots, through every part of us.

It means a safe, prosperous, and fair Australia.

An Australia with a strong economy, where you can get a job, and afford to live a good life.

With accessible healthcare, and great schools for all our kids.

Where you can catch decent public transport and drive on good roads.

An Australia where we look after our environment, and each other.

It’s in the small things, the way we treat each other, the way we behave when no one’s looking.  It’s in what we do when the eyes of the world are upon us, being a good global citizen and doing our fair share.

Delegates, this weekend, with our proud history, we come together to write the next chapter.

ENDS

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