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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SPEECH: Marriage Equality Bill, Monday 15 June 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 ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY BILL 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2015

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Maya Angelou wrote: “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

We are full of hope when we say I want to walk through life by your side.

When we say I want to share the good times, and the bad, with you.

When we say I want to grow old with you.

Neither hope nor love are so common nor so cheap that we should deny their legitimacy because of gender.

As a legislator, I am proud of the fact that the previous parliament changed 85 laws to remove discrimination against LGBTI Australians and same sex couples. That’s Labor’s legacy. That’s behind us.

What’s before us is a final challenge: to remove this last great inequality from same sex couples.

How can it be fair to deny one group in our community, citizens of Australia, the legal protections and responsibilities that marriage confers?

In a few years time, the notion that two men who love each other, or two women who love each other, could be barred from the social and legal status that marriage confers, will seem as anachronistic as laws which prevented Aboriginal Australians marrying whom they chose.

No-one can imagine today, that Jack Akbar and Lallie Matbar had to fight for years in the 1920s to be allowed to marry because Lallie was Aboriginal and Jack was not.

Indeed, Lallie was gaoled after she and Jack eloped. Their four children never knew the barriers their parents had to overcome to marry until after their deaths.

The state being able to deny marriage on racial grounds is obscene to us today.

And so it will be in the future for same sex marriage.

This is not a question of tolerance. It is a question of legal equality.

This bill makes it clear that no church will be forced to marry any couple. But our government, and our legal institutions, should not discriminate.

In the lead up to the Irish vote, author Sebastian Barry wrote, “I don’t see it as a matter of tolerance, so much as apology. Apology for all the hatred, violence, suspicion, patronisation, ignorance, murder, maiming, hunting, intimidation, terrorising, shaming, diminishment, discrimination, destruction, and yes, intolerance, visited upon a section of humanity for God knows how many hundreds of years, if not millennia.”

Sebastian Barry’s gay son was just short of 18, and too young to vote. Barry wrote,”By voting YesI will be engaging in the simple task of honouring the majesty, radiance and promise of his human soul.”

I hope that by making this change, we will make it clear to every young man or woman, shamed or shy about their sexuality, struggling alone to come to terms with being different from their brothers and sisters; their best friends: it’s just fine. It will be fine. We accept you how you are.

And we’ll be saying to the same sex couples who have loved each other tenderly for years or even decades, who have supported each other financially and emotionally, nursed one another in sickness, and woven their families together: we see you.

And we’ll be saying to the many many kids who have two mums or two dads, or both: we know you’re proud of your family. You have every right to be.

It is time, it is well past time, that this Parliament says to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians – we recognise that you love. That’s more important than who you love.

So, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

I commend the Bill to the House.

ENDS

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SPEECH: Arthur Calwell Memorial Lecture, Thursday 30 April 2015

 

commonwealthcoatofarms.png 

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

 SPEECH

ARTHUR CALWELL MEMORIAL LECTURE

MELBOURNE

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

Arthur Calwell once said, ‘I am Labor because I am Australian and Australian because I am Labor’.

He was talking about a sense of Australian identity that is based on values, not on birth.

A sense of Australian identity based on choices, not on chance.

To be Australian, Calwell was saying, is to believe as Labor believes, in fairness, in egalitarianism, in standing together in good times and in bad — what in other countries is called solidarity and in Australia we call mateship.

He was talking about the confidence and hope that come from living in country with both the oldest and some of the newest cultures on earth. A successful multicultural nation.

To be Australian is to love this country and to want to make it better in equal measure.

That is a fitting idea from the man who was Australia’s first Immigration Minister.

There were two founding principles beneath Calwell’s support for immigration. One was the understanding that immigration is good for Australia. The understanding that immigrants bring their skills and talents with them; the understanding that migrants create jobs and strengthen the economy. They grow and build and strengthen our nation; they contribute new ideas and innovations. Migrants contribute $200 billion to the Australian economy annually.1

Calwell understood, as Labor understands, unity is strength, and diversity is wealth.

Calwell’s second founding principle was that Australia has a responsibility as a good global citizen. While the idea of ‘British migrants first’ was very popular in the media and in parts of the community, Calwell signed an agreement with the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) in 1947 to bring 12,000 Displaced Persons from refugee camps in Europe to Australia every year.

It is absolutely true to say that the post-war immigration program run, and championed by Arthur Calwell changed Australia.

What is not always realised is the strength of the opposition which he overcame.

The Labor Government came under sustained and damaging criticism in Parliament and from the press for offering refuge to those who surely, in the late 1940s, needed it most: Europe’s Jews. Refugees from Displaced Persons camps were regarded with just as much suspicion. Frankly racist arguments were advanced. Newspapers caricatured migrants as slackers, a drain on Australian welfare, lazy, dirty and unskilled — sadly familiar and as false then as it is today.

In fact a 2000 study found that first-generation migrants depend less on social security than Australians who were born here.2

The success of the post-war immigration scheme can be largely attributed not only to Calwell’s advocacy but to his organisation.  He coined the term ‘New Australian’ to emphasise that migrants were part of the Australian community. The Immigration Department put great effort into orienting New Australians in their new lives, with the aim of minimising conflict between old traditions and new homes. To encourage cultural exchange in the other direction, Calwell encouraged “New Australian festivals” where migrants could introduce their new neighbours to their traditions.

Australia’s multiculturalism was not left to haphazard chance, but carefully nurtured by Government policy.

As a child of that multiculturalism, I was particularly disappointed to see the Abbot Government’s cuts of $11.5 million from the Building Multicultural Communities Program[1] and $53.7 million from the SBS. [2] – cutting away at programs that contribute so strongly to our social cohesion.

Jobs and housing were not left up to chance in the 1940s and 1950s, but carefully planned, allaying fears in the community and from many in the Trade Union movement of migrants crowding suburbs and taking employment.

Calwell understood that a migration program which undermined working conditions for Australian workers, or stretched the services and resources of Australian cities beyond capacity, would undermine all his efforts to gain community support. The need for planned migration which meets Australia’s needs and fits within Australia’s capacity remains an underpinning principle of Labor’s policy.

I still remember my own parents calling themselves New Australians.

For the 50th anniversary of the Snowy Mountains Scheme I went to Cooma with my family. I’d always thought my father was a bit quirky, but as I walked around the park there in Cooma, with the flags of so many nations flying, I saw hundreds of men like him: Strong straight bodies worn by work; with the women they loved faithfully and the children they were proud of; the men and women who built the Snowy showing their children and grandchildren the concrete representation of the deep and abiding contribution they have made to our nation.

When we talk about the benefits of multiculturalism in Australia, the conversation often starts with cuisine. Sometimes it goes no deeper, or only as far as the wonderful diversity of cultural experiences now available to Australians in every city and suburb around the country.

In a country where, still, too many people express fears of the effects of migration, of changes to our country’s laws, values, sense of self, it’s tempting to reduce multiculturalism to cooking and costumes. Nothing’s changed, the argument goes, we’ve only gained the opportunity to get a kebab on our way home from the pub.

Of course that’s wrong. Of course Australia has been changed by migration. A nation is a collective project to which we all contribute.

We are changed by the hope and confidence new migrants invest in their country of choice; the preparedness to work hard; the sacrifice they have made – leaving behind everything familiar and comfortable for the uncertainty of starting again in a new place.

Many migrants bring with them a financial investment – the professional skills or capital they bring with them; but also something less tangible but more powerful: the confidence that drives them to do well in a new place; the hope that life will be better for their children because they’ve taken this chance.

An Australia which had not been changed and challenged by welcoming so many new citizens, new languages, new ideas, in the 1940s and 1950s, would not have been able to so successfully welcome later groups of migrants from countries outside Europe.

This cooking and costumes attitude misses what I believe to be the most important thing — the deepening of our links to other countries.

And it misses the point that the changes don’t threaten what’s best and strongest about us.

Because of our multicultural heritage we have not just government-to-government and business-to-business links with other countries, we have people-to-people links too.  This builds deeper understanding and connections. We have become a nation whose ties to the world are not theoretical, not only economic, not simply formal agreements or alliances. They are ties of kinship and friendship to pretty much every nation on earth, ties much easier to maintain in these days of email and Skype than they were in my parents’ time.

There are, of course, those who do not understand that these bonds across the globe strengthen our country — who demand migrants abandon and denounce their heritage to prove their loyalty.

A halal butcher from Lakemba once told me that becoming an Australian citizen was like having a second child: you can’t imagine you’ll ever love another child as much as you love this first precious baby, but then your second child comes and you find that you don’t have to divide your love, but the love has grown to be more than enough for both. So too, he explained, he didn’t love the land of his birth any less, but that did not diminish the love and loyalty he had for Australia.

That’s why I love saying our citizenship pledge, and that’s why I think children should learn it at school. “Australians by choice: say:

From this time forward
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.

Isn’t this a creed we can all sign up to?

We are diverse, we are open, we are forward looking, but we are united by our democratic values, the rights and liberties we hold dear, and a legal framework which holds every Australian equal.

Calwell’s immigration decisions looked forward, to Australia’s future, and outward, to Australia’s place in the world. He strove to communicate his vision — Labor’s vision — of a strong, confident, more diverse Australia. He was largely successful.

It is the Labor way to look outward and forward — and it is a guiding value in my own Shadow portfolio, Foreign Affairs — unlike the Liberal way to play to a domestic audience and look nostalgically toward the past.

Australia played a key role in the founding of the United Nations, and in shaping it into more than a club for the powerful nations of the world, but into a forum for all and a focus for the development of international law and of humanitarian efforts.  Our belief in the importance to our national interest of having a role in shaping multilateral organisations, is why Labor campaigned for Australia to have a spot on the UN Security Council.

Labor has always believed that the path to a secure and stable world requires the recognition and protection of human rights for all people. This was the position Doc Evatt so successfully prosecuted at the formation of the United Nations, and it is our position now.

Given that, we must also bear in mind that we cannot expect others to behave in ways we do not. If we believe in the importance of multilateral commitments to human rights, we cannot, as this government has done, respond to criticism of our own conduct with complaints about being ‘lectured’ by the UN. This is why I signed Australia up to the optional protocol to CEDAW when I was Minister for Women – because we cannot ask other countries to be accountable to internationally agreed human rights instruments while refusing to be accountable ourselves.

Above all, Labor believes that to chart Australia’s course in the world we must have a long-term vision. We must have a plan for our engagement with the changing world that extends beyond the news cycle – that extends decades into the future.

When Labor was in government, we commissioned the Asian Century White Paper – recognising that in the decades ahead, the changes in our region will have a major impact on Australia.  One of the first things this Government did was to erase the Asian Century White Paper in what has been described as an electronic book-burning – with nothing put in its place.

That’s why we announced many months before the Abbott Government that we would sign up to the Asian Infrastructure Bank, and why we welcomed the Government’s eventual agreement.

Labor has always looked further than our borders and the electoral cycle. We have always believed that acting according to our values, being guided by our sense of what is right and what is Australian, is not just ethical, but also in our national interest.

In the coming century, we must think strategically and long term about our engagement with our region. We must continue to look forward, to Australia’s future, and outward, to our place and role in the world.

The challenges we face are different from those faced by the post-war Labor Government of which Arthur Calwell was such an important part, but our guiding values remain the same.

The Australian values, the Labor values, of fairness, of egalitarianism, of lending a hand to those in need both here at home and, as Ben Chifley said, anywhere we may.

Of striving to make our country stronger, fairer, more secure – to build a better Australia.

ENDS

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SPEECH - Address to the Melbourne Forum, Wednesday 31 March 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
ADDRESS TO THE MELBOURNE FORUM
DELIVERED WEDNESDAY, 31 MARCH 2015
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

Foreign policy occupies an unusual space in our political life.

It’s rarely a front-of-mind issue for voters – compared to waiting times at hospital emergency departments, traffic congestion, or the quality of schools.

But the way our nation navigates the shifting tides of a changing world has a profound effect on the lives, and the quality of life, of all of us.

At an extreme, of course, it can mean the difference between peace and war.  But foreign policy is also about the every-day effort to keep Australia secure and prosperous, to protect our values and our way of life, and to influence the world we live in.

In a world more interconnected and interdependent than ever before, our international relations touch every aspect of Australians’ lives, in obvious and not-so-obvious ways.  The big economic, environmental and security challenges are not national challenges, they are international. They are problems with no passports, as Kofi Annan called them; hoping to stop them at the border is futile.

Customs officers and coast guards will be no more effective than King Canute at holding back the rising tides of our warming oceans; Australia cannot continue to have a strong economy if the global economy is weak; multi drug resistant TB is just a short boat ride from our northern frontier.

Our business and industry connections around the world have brought immense benefits, especially by reducing the cost of many goods – but they’ve also raised new questions.

No government can regulate the conditions of food preparation in other countries, but as we have seen recently, those conditions can have a direct and even disastrous effect on Australians’ health here at home.

Nor can any country stipulate the conditions of work outside its borders – but with the cost of consumer goods falling, Australians want to know that the goods we’re buying are made by adults paid a decent wage, and that the planet isn’t being destroyed in their making.

We welcome freer trade, but we don’t want to give up plain packaging for tobacco, our purchasing arrangements for medicines, or our quarantine protections.

The way we relate to the world is critically important for our safety, our security, our way of life, and the values we hold dear. How, then, should we proceed?

There are a number of different schools of thought about international relations. There are the so-called ‘realists’, who argue that if you back pure self-interest you’ll never lose.  There are the ‘idealists’, who believe human beings are capable of kindness, co-operation, generosity and compassion even when it is not to their advantage – and that the world can be made a better place for us all.

There are the small “l” liberals, and you even find the occasional old Marxist, arguing that human history follows an inexorable upwards trajectory, generally grounded in economic development. In contrast, the post-structuralists’ view is that there is no inevitability to progress nor automatic success for any system or structure.

And then there’s real life, which teaches us that foreign policy can never be carried out in rigid obedience to any theory, and you can’t underestimate the importance of personalities and personal relationships.

We are best served, I believe, by an approach that understands that our Australian values and our national interests align more often than not, and that our values and interests are best expressed and pursued over the long term, not in a transactional or short term way.

Let me set out Labor’s approach:

Labor believes there is no inherent conflict between our national interests and the interests of the global community – especially when it comes to these problems without passports.  We believe, for example, that it is in our national interest to have a strong aid program.  When vaccination programs eliminate communicable diseases, we are all healthier; when nations become markets for our goods and suppliers of their own we’re all wealthier, and when education levels rise and skills expand, we all reap the benefits of innovation, invention and creativity.

We also believe, and Australia’s foreign policy experience under Labor proves, that Australia has a role to play in finding multilateral solutions to global challenges.

Australia played a key role in the founding of the United Nations,  We helped shape it into more than a club for the powerful nations of the world – rather, a forum for all countries and a focus for the development of international law and of humanitarian efforts.

Australia is a beneficiary of a rules based international order because we’re a relatively small country in population, with a large land mass to protect.

But we have also always seen ourselves as a contributor to this same system. We’re right to think we have something important to bring to the table.

That’s why Labor campaigned for Australia to have a spot on the UN Security Council. It is why Labor now supports the Government’s stated intention to seek another term for Australia on the Council – in contrast to the criticism we copped from the then opposition during our successful bid.

It is also why we saw the importance of the G20, rather than the G8, becoming the world’s most significant economic forum during the Global Financial Crisis. The greater the number of nations working together to tackle the big issues the better for all of us, including Australia.

And we believe that our national interest is best served when our foreign policy reflects our values – when we walk the talk, and we’re seen by other countries to do so.

Labor has always believed that the path to a secure and stable world requires the recognition and protection of human rights for all people. It was Doc Evatt’s position at the formation of the United Nations, and it is our position now.

Given that, we must also bear in mind that we cannot expect others to behave in ways we do not. If we believe in the importance of multilateral commitments to human rights, we cannot, as this government has done, respond to criticism of our own conduct with complaints about being ‘lectured’ by the UN. This is why, when I was Minister for Women at the beginning of our term in government, I signed Australia up to the optional protocol to The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – because we cannot ask other countries to be accountable to internationally agreed human rights instruments while refusing to be accountable ourselves.

Above all, Labor believes that to chart Australia’s course in the world we must have a long-term vision. We must have a plan for our engagement with the changing world that extends beyond the news cycle – that extends decades into the future. And I have to say, this is in stark contrast to the transactional, short term approach of the current Government.

When Labor was in government, we commissioned the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper – recognising that in the decades ahead, the changes in our region will have a major impact on Australia.  One of the first things this Government did was to erase that White Paper – others have called it an electronic book-burning. This wouldn’t be so bad, but what long term strategy has the government replaced it with?

The reflexive, transactional approach of the Abbott Government to the question of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been embarrassing.  Short-term, reflexive agreement with what we’re told was the USA’s position – compliance, rather than as it should be, alliance – has made Australia’s eventual participation seem grudging and half-hearted to our regional neighbours. It has undermined our ability to influence the direction of the Bank from the ground up.  It’s clearly a missed opportunity.

Short-term, domestic focus has also been on display with the Government’s unilateral announcements of immigration policy without consultation with our near neighbours. This has put particular strain on our relationship with Indonesia – a crucial relationship given that by 2050 Indonesia will have an economy twice the size of Australia’s.

With no long-term vision for the world as it might be and could become, this Government is limited to managing the foreign policy inbox rather than charting Australia’s course into the future.  This is, I strongly believe, antithetical to Australia’s national interest. The fact the Government cites the ‘New Colombo Plan’ as its signature foreign policy initiative speaks volumes.  While of course we support the Plan, and I’ve met many of the wonderful young people who have participated, Australia should be doing better than the resuscitation of Menzies-era student study program when it comes to the centrepiece of our engagement with the world. This is one program in what should be a multi-track policy of engagement with Asia.

Labor’s approach is, and always has been, different. We have always looked further than our borders and beyond the electoral cycle.

Our experience has proved that foreign policy which is long term, and is guided by our values, is not in conflict with – but is an investment in – Australia’s national interest.

ENDS

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SPEECH - 2015 Australasian Aid Conference

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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

 

2015 AUSTRALASIAN AID CONFERENCE

THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

 

THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

Every now and then, an image, a story, a funny cat video goes viral on the internet.

A couple of weeks ago, a news story originally from the BBC achieved that status. It was – you’ve probably seen it – about a 90 year old great-grandmother attending primary school in Kenya. Born when Kenya was still British occupied, never having had the opportunity for formal education, this remarkable woman [Priscilla Sitienei] has worked as a midwife for more than 65 years, and in fact delivered many of her classmates.

She enrolled in school to be an example to other women, particularly young mothers who had dropped out of school, by proving that you are never too old for an education – saying: "I want to say to the children of the world, especially girls, that education will be your wealth, don't look back and run to your father."

It’s a great story with lots of feel-good factors, and you can see why it was shared so widely, especially when you get to the bit about how she still practices as a midwife out of school hours – in the dormitory she shares with one of her great-grandchildren.

And it reminded everyone who read it of the power of education, to create opportunities, ignite aspirations, to transform lives – and of the hunger for education among those who have been denied it.

That transformative power of education, to create the preconditions for individuals and nations to rise from poverty, is why the second Millennium Development Goal is to achieve universal primary education.

And the not-so-feel good part of that BBC story is that while in many places, that goal is almost achieved, sub-Saharan Africa is falling behind.

And what hasn’t gone viral, but has instead sunk without a trace, is that the Abbott Government has cut the aid to sub-Saharan Africa by more than half – cut $118m out of what had been a $224m budget under Labor.

Plan International estimates that the aid cuts mean that in the next year alone, 220,000 girls will be denied the chance to enrol in school. We have been told just in the last few days that a program to allow young women to attend school in Uganda has ended, and that programs to support youth livelihood, so critical to economic growth, in Timor and Bangladesh can’t continue. The Fred Hollows Foundation was forced to axe programs in Indonesia, China, Vietnam and within Africa .

Australians are a generous people, as the overwhelming public response to disasters and crises shows. By May 2005, Australian individuals and businesses had donated $313 million in response to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. That was a high point – but even in 2013, funding raised in Australia by humanitarian appeals in response to disasters around the world was more than $98 million.

Even in countries where foreign aid has become a hotly contested political football between parties, a large majority of people support the idea of bringing food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, education to those denied it and hope to those who otherwise have none.

Our fellow Australians are not the only ones to have an inherent understanding of a truth the current government seems unable to grasp: in a globalised world we are all connected: not merely in an abstract, ‘no man is an island’ sense but by a complex web of economic links, by trade, travel and cultural exchange.

When vaccination programs eliminate communicable diseases, we are all more healthy; when nations become markets for our goods and suppliers of their own, we are all more wealthy; and when education levels  rise and skills expand, we may not all be more wise but we all reap the benefits of innovation, invention and creativity.

However, while support for aiding others is and remains strong, support for “foreign aid” as an abstract concept, divorced from specific crises, needs and goals, is far more tenuous.

For a period, the “Make Poverty History” campaign successfully drew a direct connection between government investment in foreign aid and addressing the ills that people care about, and built a powerful consensus between citizens, NGOs, and governments.

But, as with everything, consensus must be renewed and rebuilt on a constant basis. If there is one thing politics has taught me, it is that no victory is final, no cause is ever over, and public support for any policy can never be assumed.

When it comes to foreign aid, we have seen old caricatures about waste and bureaucracy, inefficiency and corruption, once again exploited for base political gain both here and overseas – as that clear connection between our aid and the good it does slid out of the public eye and faded from people’s minds.

And in Australia, with the destruction of the bipartisan approach to aid since the Abbott Government’s election, we have seen that consensus dwindle.

When Labor was in government we nearly doubled the aid budget and worked toward the reaching the 0.5 per cent target by 2017-18. The Liberals have slashed $11.2 billion dollars from the Australian aid program, a cut at every budget and financial update since they were elected, and they have walked away from the previously bipartisan agreement on the aid program. They have now cut more money from aid than was budgeted for by Labor in our forward estimates.  In the last budget, 20% of all cuts, one dollar in every five cut, came from this one area – the biggest cut to any program was to aid. 

These cuts aren’t just a headline statistic. They mean:

 

  • 1,424,796 children could be born without a birth attendant
  • 2,237,280 children may not get to enrol in school
  • 3,775,052 children may not be vaccinated
  • 4,710,642 people may not get access to safe water
  • 21,944,521 people in emergency situations may go unassisted.

 

In the next year alone, as Plan International has calculated, the latest cuts to foreign aid could mean:

 

  • 220,000 fewer girls will be enrolled in school, and;
  • 400,000 fewer girls will be immunised, and;
  • 3,153 fewer classrooms where girls can learn will be renovated or built, and;
  • 157,000 fewer girls will get better access to safe drinking water, and;
  • 750,000 fewer textbooks will be made available for girls.

 

To retain public support, aid must be effective, it must be efficient, and it must be argued for.

Now, in the 18 months since the Abbott Government was elected, we have heard a lot about aid effectiveness, as if it were some kind of new discovery.

In fact Australia has over many years built a highly effective aid program through our NGOs and our specialist aid agency AusAID:

 

  • Look at Timor-Leste where we helped more than 30,000 farmers improve their yield, in some cases by as much as 80 per cent, or helped 67,000 people get access to basic sanitation.
  • Look at the mobile courtrooms in Indonesia helping disadvantaged women get marriage and birth certificates, so they could enrol their children in school.
  • Look at the women in Papua New Guinea who were able to trade their goods in the local markets because the ablution blocks our aid program had built meant they did not have to use the nearby bushes and risk being robbed or raped.

    Positive findings in our own independent reviews were backed up by the most recent Peer Review from the OECD last year, which highlighted some of the strengths of our aid program:

  • We were increasing funding in line with our target to reach 0.5 per cent of GNI, our areas of good practice were increasing and the overall degree of fragmentation was decreasing.
  • AusAID was singled out for praise for its strategic planning and the coherence it brought to key policy areas.

Our focus on gender and support of UN Women was among the best in the world, as was our expertise in disability-inclusive aid.

 

Aid effectiveness is not a new concept. Australia had a highly effective aid program.

It was the Abbott Government which has made Australian aid less efficient and less effective.

Abolishing Ausaid saw the loss of a tremendous reserve of expertise in aid delivery. As you all know, delivering aid programs takes a different set of skills to consular and diplomatic work – and as Australia’s record shows, the expertise, knowledge and experience of Ausaid staff enabled Australian aid to be more effective and more efficient. It was a force multiplier.

Australia needs specialists to design, run, measure and assess aid programs and to build effective partnerships on the ground.

Expertise allows us to go further than the simple platitudes so beloved by this Government, such as ‘give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime’.

Expertise leads us to ask questions like –

  • who is going to build and staff the school that provides the vocational training to teach that man to fish?
  • Who owns the cannery where he sells his excess catch?
  • Does the cannery owner pay their fair share of tax so that the government can fund education for the next generation to learn to fish? Or will different training, for different jobs, be necessary?
  • What about the downstream industries?
  • How sustainable is fishing in that area – will emphasis on fishing as a preferred trade lead to overfishing, fish stock exhaustion, and the collapse of the industry?
  • Does the fisherman get a fair price? And what role does technology have in that – for example, can he, as fishermen in Nigeria do, use his mobile phone to check prices before deciding which market to put in to?

Proverbs and platitudes fail as aid programs negotiate the challenges of tax justice, of strong governance, of inclusive and sustainable development.

Of course every dollar counts.

Labor wants to be sure our aid programs, our NGOs and private sector partners have the expertise, the skills and the professionalism needed to achieve maximum value from our investment.

We have seen – just in our own lifetimes – that goals once believed unachievable, like a polio-free India, can be attained, with methodical and targeted efforts. I believe that with focus, with application, with the appropriate expertise, other seemingly impossible tasks are within the international aid community’s capacity.

But I also know that when Australia once again has a government committed to taking aid seriously, a Labor Government, we will be trying to plant in fields sown with salt.

Australia’s government agencies have lost skilled personnel - lost expertise and experience. Successful projects have closed. We have lost skilled activists in the community and we have lost the critical community consensus.

It will not be a simple matter of pressing the restart button. Australia will have to concentrate on what we can do well, where our investment will do most good, as we rebuild an Australian aid program.

It is important to be clear about what the purpose of our aid program is: it is to attack poverty.

Aid cannot by itself lift a nation out of poverty; but it can create the preconditions for individuals and nations to lift themselves. The idea of a basic level of food, shelter and support necessary to live rather than merely exist, contains within it the understanding that no-one can innovate, can thrive, can work to reform their government and institutions, if all their energy must be ceaselessly bent to surviving each day. It is hard to learn if you don’t have enough to eat; it is hard to work if you have malaria.

Without addressing the crippling effects of poverty, other aid goals cannot be as effective as they ought to be.

I cannot understand a government which removes poverty alleviation as an objective of our aid program, as the Abbott Government did.

While trade is important for developing countries, the Abbott Government seems untroubled by the prospect that the gains flowing from increased “aid for trade” may only trickle down unevenly with no guarantee of helping those most in need.

As we know, economic growth does not necessarily reduce inequality. Countries like Cambodia and Indonesia have seen growth and income inequality rise together – and the IMF has even found that inequality ultimately threatens long-term growth.

So it’s vital that we maintain clarity about the purpose of our aid program – growth is good, not for its own sake, but to help people and countries overcome poverty.

The Abbott Government has neither clarity about aid’s purpose nor clarity about the role of government.

The partnership between government, NGOs and the private sector only works when it is built on predictability, respect and transparency. But since the change of government, our ranking on the Aid Transparency Index – an independent measure of how much and how frequently aid information is made available, crucial to avoiding overlap and enabling long term planning – has dropped.

The adoption of the Open Government Partnership - an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens - has stalled. And while the Abbott Government says that they will redirect resources to NGOs which are effective on the ground, so far there is little to no information about how that effectiveness will be evaluated.

As you know, it is estimated that the value of aid is reduced by up to 20 per cent when funding is unpredictable and volatile. So the Government’s approach not only means ongoing uncertainty for NGOs who don’t know whether their funding will be cut, but decreased effectiveness for our aid program more broadly. Organisations can’t commit to the long term initiatives that may be necessary for real change, and they spend too much of their time chasing funding rather than doing their core work.

In fact, NGOs have described signing contracts with the Australian Government, contracting with local partners for delivery and then being told funding is no longer available. Successive waves of cuts mean just as new budgets, cutting staff and programs are settled, new cuts from the government require more retrenchment.

Ladies and gentlemen, I began by talking about the benefits that we receive from the foreign aid we invest in health, education and economic development. Australia cannot be secure in an insecure world, and poverty and inequality have been a cause of insecurity throughout recorded history. 

But there is another reason why we aid those in need – the reason giving remains popular even when ‘foreign aid’ is not.

Our fellow Australians know well the voices of what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. We all know the names of those angels: empathy, understanding, compassion, generosity.

We hear those angels most clearly when it is people close to us in need: when our own child is sick, when our own friend is ill; when our own family is in hardship. But we also hear those angels when they speak on behalf of the stranger, the foreigner, the dweller in a distant land.

We aid those who need it not only because of what it gives to us, but because of what it does for us: show us that despite our differences we are all share similar needs and aspirations, we all feel similar fears and loves. To turn our back on that is to accept a narrower, cramped soul.

Those of us who understand the importance of foreign aid – the importance of the role that government alone can play, the effect that foreign aid has on alleviating and preventing suffering, uplifting horizons, and opening opportunities – have an obligation to build and to ceaselessly rebuild that bridge between public understanding of the good of giving and our own understanding of the good of aid. No consensus is ever permanent, and the consensus for foreign aid is no different. It is, I know, a tiring task to make and make again the argument for something which we know to be good policy. But to turn away from that responsibility is to accept a narrower, cramped Australia.

ENDS

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SPEECH - Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran

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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

MR CHAN AND MR SUKUMARAN

MOTION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

 

THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2015

 

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

 

Thank you Madam Speaker and I rise to second the motion.

Over the last several months the Government and Opposition have worked closely and very hard on diplomatic efforts calling on the Indonesian Government to show these two men clemency. Our consular staff, as the Foreign Minister said, many private individuals, business leaders, people with long connections to Indonesia have been part of that diplomatic effort behind the scenes to urge clemency.

Of course these two young men know that they have done the wrong thing.

They know they have broken the law and they deserve to be punished, and indeed they should be.

But reports suggest that they have made significant and successful efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

The head of Kerobokan Prison has attested that both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have made exemplary efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

They have by all reports become model prisoners and taken a leadership role within the prison, facilitating educational courses for others prisoners including English language classes, painting classes, drawing, music, dance, fitness and basic computer skills.

They have helped coordinate fundraising activities both to improve the prison facilities and also to support the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have demonstrated genuine remorse.

About 3,800 years ago, the Stela of Hammurabi was erected. It was the first written codification of law. It appeared in Babylon thousands of years ago and it includes a section that says ‘if a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye; if one breaks a man’s bone, they shall break his bone; if one destroys the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman, he shall pay one mana of silver; and if they do that to a slave, they shall pay half that price’.

That’s the basic eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world.

But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

And one of the reasons we’ve done that is we’ve understood that the people who are most hurt by crimes should not be the ones making the decisions about the punishment.

We need to have a principled and methodical approach to punishments of serious crimes.

I perhaps have a particular view on remorse and redemption because of experiences in my own life.

In 1988, my husband left prison after being charged and convicted of a similar crime to these young men.

I imagine what would have happened if he had been caught in Thailand, instead of in Australia, where that crime was committed, when he was coming back to Australia.

I think about – I didn’t know him at the time, this was thirty years ago, what the world would have missed out on.

They would have missed out on the three beautiful children that we’ve had together. They would have missed out on a man who spent the rest of his life making amends for the crime that he committed.

I have another perspective on this too.

In 1997, I lost my brother to a violent crime in Port Moresby. And I know that if I had been the one making the decision about the punishment of the person who did that crime, I couldn’t have thought of a punishment bad enough.

That’s why we don’t make decisions about punishment on the basis of how we feel, but on the basis of universal consistently applied rules.

I think it’s important to say that when it comes to the death penalty, there has been for many years in Australia a bipartisan rejection of the death penalty.

Our former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said:

Capital punishment is just as barbaric and inexcusable in the hands of States as it is in the hands of individuals. As we know, it barbarises and unsettles the executioners themselves.”

And that’s why in 1973 the Whitlam Government abolished the death penalty under Federal Law.

That was one step. There have been successive steps by both sides of the House in reducing Australia’s exposure to the death penalty.

I was part of the Labor Government that passed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Act in 2010 which prevented the death penalty from being reintroduced by any State or Territory Government now and into the future.

The former Justice Michael Kirby said:

The death penalty brutalises the State that carries it out… [it] is left over from an earlier and more barbaric time.”

I think that these words are just as important today as they were when Gough Whitlam and Michael Kirby uttered them.

Our opposition to the death penalty and the legal changes we’ve made over time are based on that simple respect for the sanctity of human life and a rejection of that code of thousands of years, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This belief is a moral one; it reflects the kind of world we want to live in.

It is a belief that all people should have inherent dignity simply by virtue of being human.

"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice." said Desmond Tutu.

He was talking about the power of restorative justice, the possibility that offenders can be rehabilitated.

A justice that punishes, but can restore offenders to be productive members of society.

This is the kind of justice Australia advocates, for everyone, everywhere.

Regardless of where an offence occurs, regardless of whether they are Australian citizens, we oppose the death penalty.

And this opposition has been bipartisan for many years now.

The best expression of that recently has been this letter signed by so many Members of Parliament on both sides.

The letter to the Indonesian ambassador to Australia says:

 

We do not seek to minimise the serious nature of their crimes, given the damaging effects of illicit drugs on our societies.

We do believe Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan should be punished. Indeed, we have the highest respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty and political independence.

Australia abolished the death penalty some years ago and opposition to the death penalty has strong bipartisan and broad public support.

We note that the international trend is overwhelmingly away from capital punishment and towards the imposition of lengthy prison sentences for serious crimes, where prisoners can reflect on their mistakes and endeavour to demonstrate remorse and make amends through rehabilitation and community service.

Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan have demonstrated genuine remorse and have become model prisoners, working constructively at Kerobokan not only on their own rehabilitation and reform, but also for that of other prisoners.

By reason of their good behaviour, demonstrated rehabilitation and education of other prisoners, both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran come within the Constitutional Court’s recommendation.

Also, we believe it is significant that both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran were only apprehended as a result of the Australian Federal Police providing information to Indonesian Police.

Their crime, serious as it was, was intended to impact on Australians in Australia, not Indonesia.

Over many years now Indonesian and Australian Federal Police have exchanged intelligence and engaged with each other to address international crime and terrorism.

We are committed to ensuring that international police cooperation and intelligence sharing continues in the interests of Indonesia, Australia, and all other nations in the region.

The fact is that the 2010 legislation preventing the reintroduction of the death penalty was supported by both sides of politics, Madam Speaker.

This letter, that bipartisan support then, the bipartisan support for the consular efforts that have gone to help Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan show that Australia is united in renouncing the death penalty.

Now, here in Australia and around the world.

Our strong stance is also reflected in our international obligations.

Australia has ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is aimed at eliminating the death penalty.

Our view is reflected in the preamble:

The abolition of the death penalty “contributes to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights.”

As a nation we should continue to use our diplomatic powers and efforts to constructively engage with other nations to help eradicate the death penalty.

We have a particular challenge in this area.

We must continue to build our agency to agency links wherever we have those established with other nations.

The work that the Australian Federal Police does with the Indonesian Police is vital for both countries and our cooperation should remain strong. 

It is important that we work with all other nations to prevent serious transnational crimes, such as the crime that these young men have been convicted of.

However, we must also make sure we take a principled approach to the “death penalty to ensure that [we] are not involved in the imposition of the sentences in other nations.” [George Williams, UNSW Law Professor]

Building the capacity to cooperate to prevent transnational crime while ensuring that we do not become a party to the imposition of the death penalty needs to be a focus of our engagement with other nations.

Progress requires long-term constructive engagement through our diplomatic channels and through our agency to agency cooperation.

Of course this process won’t happen overnight, but I believe it is important that we continue both our work to prevent transnational crimes but without compromising our stance on the death penalty.

I remain hopeful even in these difficult times that the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian President will show clemency to these young men and provide them with a stay of execution.

I think that all Australians would join with me in calling on the Indonesian Government to show that mercy.

 

ENDS

 

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SPEECH - The Australia-India relationship in a changing world

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The Australia-India relationship in a changing world

Co-hosted by the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the University of Tasmania

Hobart, TAS

Thursday 20 November 2014

 

**CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY**

 

INTRODUCTION

In September, Senator Lisa Singh and I went to New Delhi and met with political leaders, Members of Parliament, NGOs, academics, and experts.

It was particularly great to be able to take Lisa Singh with me.  She has received a very high honour from the Government of India.  She was in correspondence with Prime Minister Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, so I got to trail on her coattails a little bit on this visit to India.

It’s one of the wonderful things about Australian multiculturalism – it gives us so many links with so many countries that are deep and sincere links because they are people to people links.  We have a profound understanding of the many nations that make up the backgrounds of our people, remembering that about a quarter of Australians are born overseas and about half of all Australians have at least one parent born overseas.

Having Lisa there as one of the 400,000 people of Indian origin in Australia, was really a great demonstration of the very special bond between India and Australia and the very special characteristics of Australia as a multicultural society.

That visit was a visit designed to build on the good work that Labor in government had done.  I was going to talk about the Rudd/Gillard years, but of course as far back as an Australian Labor Government supporting Indian independence, and being one of the first countries to do so.

THE RISE OF INDIA

Our visit coincided with a very special event.  We were there on the 24th of September and the Indian Mars Orbiter spacecraft successfully moved into its Mars orbit at that time.

The Indian Space Research Organisation is the fourth space agency to reach Mars, and India is the first nation to achieve it on its first attempt.

This remarkable mission is not an end in itself – it is a demonstrator project to support technologies for India’s future interplanetary missions.  The mission tells the story of a nation that takes thoughtful and deliberate steps to secure its future.

India has also been able to deliver its Mars mission at a lower cost than any other mission to date, with a total cost of around US$73 million.  It has done this through a skilled domestic workforce, lower worker costs, home-grown technologies, simpler design, and significantly less complicated payload than other missions.

In an opinion piece in the English language daily The Hindu it was pointed out that the cost was equivalent to less than a single bus ride for each of India's population of 1.2 billion.

The Mars mission is reflective of the economic miracle of modern India.

Since the late 1980s the world's largest democracy and second most populous country has opened itself to the outside world, encouraging economic reform and foreign investment.

India’s position as a fast-growing and powerful economy has been recently reinforced by the recent election campaign of Narendra Modi.  His commitments to speed government decision-making and remove the bureaucratic hurdles that have slowed development will give some confidence to foreign investors.

India is now on the radar of the world's leading economic and political powers, governments and private investors alike.

The thing that was striking about that Mars mission is that the announcement was made on the same day that Lisa and I were visiting one of the slums in Delhi, and so we saw first-hand the capacity of India and the constraint.

Despite an economic miracle that supports a burgeoning middle class and remarkable technological strides, many Indians remain impoverished, and inequality in fact is on the rise.  According to the World Bank, 22 per cent of India’s population lives in poverty.

Economic growth rates in India averaged around 7 per cent between 1993 and 2010 and the benefits of that growth were shared more broadly than ever before in India.  It enabled large numbers of people to be lifted out of poverty.

But at the same time, the gap between the very rich and the very poor continued to grow, and the gap between rich and poor regions in India also grew.

This sort of inequality is now accepted by the World Bank, the IMF, the G20, and even the most conservative of economic analysis, as causing an overall drag on growth.

These same institutions have accepted that the previous orthodoxy of “trickle-down economics” – that notion that unbridled capitalism is all it takes to lift people out of poverty, doesn’t bear too much scrutiny.

India is expected to overtake China in terms of population by 2028 according to UN projections, but the real capacity of India comes with the development of its people, not just the numbers, but the investment in those people.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia, which we have watched so closely this week, generated phenomenal excitement – I know that Lisa was one of the fan girls at the Allphones stadium in Western Sydney.

16,000 people – a rapturous welcome for Prime Minister Modi.  Many of my colleagues were there.  There was singing, and there was dancing.  It was a very big deal.

In fact, the Victorians chartered a special train from Melbourne to Sydney – they called it the “Modi Express”.

I can tell you it’s not very often that we greet political leaders this way.  I don’t know the last time an Australian Prime Minister got that sort of greeting.

This excitement, that was so very tangible this week in Australia, was not just about Prime Minister Modi as a person, although I am sure some of it was that very focused political support for him and for his agenda, but it was about a vision he has expressed for India, which is about both unlocking the full economic potential of the country, but also the full human potential of its people.

In his address to Parliament he said: “we have moved forward, thinking with ambition, acting with speed; seeking growth not just for growth, but to transform the quality of life of every Indian.”

The Prime Minister is reforming his country not just through continued reduction in poverty, but also through efforts to increase equality.  He knows that the country’s population overtaking that of China is not going to be as meaningful in 2028 if 25 per cent of his people are still living without electricity.

Mr Modi says he will change this.  Public investments in infrastructure and in national endowments are part of the solution he has laid out.

The IMF has found that government expenditures - particularly social expenditures - are closely linked to inclusive growth outcomes.  It found that Indian states that boosted spending on education and attainment rates have experienced better growth outcomes.  The virtuous growth circle is investment in education; better jobs; higher incomes; more investment in education ……and so it goes on.

This brings me back to another reflection on my visit to India – when I met with women who were participating in the Shikhar Microfinance project.  This project gives more than 30,000 families in the slums of Delhi a chance at escaping poverty.  And despite the incredible poverty, and the desperate situations in which people were living, the small amounts of money that were being earned by these women were prioritised almost universally on one thing – and that was the education of their children.

Of course, India has a public education system but many of these mothers were either taking the small amount they had to send their children to religious-based schools, in some cases not the religion that they were practicing at home, but they thought they would get a better quality of education, and if they couldn’t afford full-time school fees, they were paying for tutors, an afternoon a week or two afternoons a week.

These are people living in one room, maybe two rooms, maybe twice the size of this desk here. Some of them still without electricity, often without any plumbing, sorting through junkyards for little piece of fabric that they were washing and processing for recycling, making tiny little dolls clothes for a dollar a day. These are people who are really just surviving but their priority is educating their children and a great outcome for their kids is a job in a hotel, for example. Something that gives them inside work, security in the formal employment sector, that is what they wanted for their children.

I was so inspired by that commitment to education I saw from those women.  They were from different part of India, different religions, and different castes, and all of them expressed that desire for their children to go to school, receive an education, and get jobs.   They recognised the importance of education to giving their children the best chance of living a better life.

India is now a nation which can send an explorer to Mars but it still has millions of people to lift out of poverty, and there are immense expectations that Prime Minister Modi will do this, that he’ll use his electoral mandate and support to make economic reforms that will give greater prosperity to allow the social investment in people and to generate economic growth that actually benefits the vast number of people still to be lifted out of poverty.

The rise of India is also an enormous opportunity for us and for the world. Prime Minister Modi’s promised new markets to open as India's emerging middle class achieves a higher standard of living. He has promised increased trade and international cooperation and more importantly, he’s talked about the role that India will play in shaping the region for the future. As Australians, we are a tiny nation in terms of population, but we think of ourselves as playing a role internationally in shaping not just our region but the way our globe operates, the way that countries relate to one another, and I think that this is a terrifically important partnership for Australia into the future.

Under Prime Minister Gillard, two major steps were taken which lay a framework for Australia’s vision.  The “Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement” between Australia and India which launched negotiations in May 2011 under Prime Minister Gillard’s administration, upgrading our partnership with India.  This followed a joint statement signed by former Prime Ministers Rudd and Singh upgrading bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership” level.

If you look at that work with India and also compare the strategic partnership secured by former Prime Minister Gillard with China, you see that Australia as a country has these two great opportunities as our neighbours grow to engage economically and strategically in our region. Both of these agreements deepen our previous relationships and indeed Prime Minister Modi made a particular point of telling Bill Shorten and I when we met this week that the agreements signed on social security, combating narcotics, transfer of sentenced persons, cooperation in the field of arts and tourism are all things that came out of that work that had been done previously by our government and he thanked us for our work.

In August, I spoke at the Confucius Institute at UNSW about how the growth of China brought with it not just great opportunities to us and for China but also great responsibilities.

I think it is very true to talk about India in these terms as well, that economic growth is a terrific opportunity for the people of India, it is a terrific opportunity for our businesses engaging with this growing middle class but it also brings with it expectations and responsibilities. It brings with it the domestic expectations of Indian citizens, of their quality of life and how it will change, but it also brings with it global expectations as well about the role that India will play in the globe.

Just as China will be a more significant participant in the global economy and in global institutions, India too will take its place on the world stage as an increasingly influential member of the global community.

Prime Minister Modi also spoke about this in his address to our Parliament.  He called for greater cooperation between India and Australia in this “moment of enormous opportunity and great responsibility”.  He said “Since my Government entered office, no region has seen more intense engagement on India's part than the Asia Pacific region - because we understand how deeply our future is linked to this region.”

So it is going to be very interesting over the next years and decades to watch what that greater engagement, that Prime Minister Modi acknowledges India will need to engage in, what that will look like, what form it will take, what structures will be used.

RELATIONS WITH CHINA

The world is watching the rise of India in the context of a changing region.  Alongside India’s rise, we have been focused on the major political and economic shifts which are occurring in China.

As the world’s two most populous countries, both have immense opportunities and challenges.  They are also the largest emerging economies in the world, and have growing middle classes with changing expectations.

And there is also a very interesting - I think it is fascinating for people who watch foreign affairs - evolving relationship between India and China.

When Xi Jinping visited Prime Minister Modi it was considered a very important visit, all eyes were on it.  There is the longest contested land border in the world between India and China. There was an advance of Chinese troops into India while Xi Jinping was in India. People have been struggling to understand: what is the symbolism, why then, why pick this moment? The reason that there was so much fascination with that one event is because people are holding onto their breaths to find out what will the relationship between India and China be like. We sometimes as Australians always think about how we relate to India, how we relate to China, how we relate to the United States, how we relate to Japan, and forget that the intricacy between the relationship of our friends and neighbours are as significant an effect on our future as our own efforts to engage with each of those nations.

Both Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in their visits have talked about their own determination to increase economic growth within the countries that have also talked about what that growth will look like and what it is designed to deliver for their people.

Xi Jinping’s China Dream speech at his government's third plenum talk about the reasons for growth in China is to continue to deliver an improved standard of living for Chinese people and as that standard of living increases of course the expectations of the middle-class change. You’ve got an increasing number of Chinese students studying overseas, you’ve got more tourists coming and going, China's leadership are wondering how they will continue to respond to those demands for a cleaner environment, better social services, more freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Modi’s agenda for economic growth including the ambitious targets for infrastructure and sanitation also give an enormous hope to the people of India about what growth will mean in terms of transforming their everyday lives.

The first meeting between these two new leaders was also closely watched.  During the state visit Prime Minister Modi said of his relationship with President Xi: “we can reinforce each other's economic growth. We can contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in our region. And, we can give new direction and energy to the global economy.”

INDIA’S ROLE IN A CHANGING REGION

Prime Minister Modi has staked part of his reform agenda on India as a robust, well-functioning democracy in the region.

He has talked about India’s 3Ds: “Democracy, Demography and Demand” as taking a significant role in his “Make in India” campaign to attract more foreign investment.

When he talks about demographics, he is talking about a very young country that will be a driving force in the Asian labour market in the 21st century and the demand of a rising middle class with a higher disposable income.

And of course the response of neighbours like China, Japan and the US have meant that they have wasted no time in courting Prime Minister Modi since his election.

We have also prioritised our relationship with India, not just since the election, but before that as well.

Australia’s interaction with India is also a part of this - we need to take account of this juggle of suitors that India is experiencing with China, Japan and the United States – each of them vying for the affection of Prime Minister Modi and India.

CHANGES TO THE INDOPACIFIC AND TO REGIONAL ARCHITECTURE

One of the things that this will effect is how India relates to the existing international infrastructure that we use to make decisions as countries in our region and globally.

I would like to raise a couple of areas where this will be of particular interest.

One of them obviously is climate change.  We’ve got a global agreement that we are heading for, we hope, in Paris next year.  We’ve had some very important statements from the G20 about the necessity for countries to decarbonise their economies. And we’ve had very significantly both China and the United States, the world’s two largest polluters, sign up to an agreement that nobody thought possible just two weeks ago.

So what will happen? What role will India take when it comes to multilateral action on climate change? And the second question of course is how will India change its role as it grows in prosperity in multilateral fora, including the two new investment banks. The BRICS investment bank and the Chinese backed investment bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. So watching those very important issues of how India will engage in these great challenges of the future I think will be of enormous interest to Australia and other countries as well.

India is the third largest carbon dioxide emitter after the United States and China, and it was very significant that Prime Minister Modi said in his address to the Australian Parliament that yes, he wants to keep buying Australian coal, and yes, he wants to keep buying Australian uranium, but he included in that statement about meeting the energy needs of the hundreds of millions of Indians that have no access even to basic electricity in their homes. He said we have to find fuel sources that don’t melt our glaciers. Now I think that is pretty significant because as I say, India, fast-growing, third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, if India takes a path of looking for energy use sources from low carbon emission technologies, compared with if it takes a path of not caring whether its energy comes from low carbon or high carbon sources, compared with if India prioritises energy from renewable sources, that will make a huge difference to the global economics of energy supply.

The other area that will be very important to observe and work with India on is the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which both give India a huge opportunity to have investment within India from the New Development Bank which of course is set up by the BRICS country and India is going to be its inaugural president for the first six years. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, India of course is also a founding member.

Both of those banks, potentially huge investors in Indian infrastructure, but both of those banks also with India as a founding member and guiding president for the first six years with the New Development Bank will be setting the agenda for the type of infrastructure that gets built, for the type of transparency in government arrangements around these banks as well. This is a response that comes from the emerging economies really being shut out of the institutions that were set up after the Second World War that don’t reflect the fact that China and India and these other emerging countries are now very significant economic players and a question for us has to be how much will we change international arrangements that are 50 years old, sometimes older, actually take account of the fact that economic power is changing. Instead of being part of the IMF, China set up its own bank. It has done that because the IMF does not recognise China's weight in the international community and has up til now been incapable of amending its own governance to recognise China as a growing power. Will the same happen for India or will we manage to change our global infrastructure or global architecture to take account of these changing shifts in power?

For us, it is a reminder of what happens when international organisations do not adapt to a changing world, and for India it’s a reminder of what changing architecture means for their own economy and their potential for global leadership.  Prime Minister Modi said in our Parliament this week: “we do not have to rely on borrowed architecture of the past. Nor do we have the luxury to choose who we work with and who we won't.”[9]

So there are a couple of challenges and a couple of opportunities that I’ve laid out for you. India has enormous capacity; we see it in its growing economy, fast-growing middle class, growing demographics and its capacity. The Mars expedition is a colourful way of describing the capacity but you see it in so many areas, yet it still has this demand from its own people, this great challenge of poverty and how it will take economic growth and spread the benefit of that so that it benefits not just for moral reasons the vast majority of people, but for its own continued economic strength, those benefits have to be shared and investment has to be made into lifting people out of poverty, investing in health and education, and our own place in the world, our own relationship with India and how India sits in our region. Can our architecture accommodate these rising powers? Do we need to do more to understand that the world is a changing place and that the organisations that have served us very well for many decades need to take account of those changing power relationships?



 

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SPEECH - McKell Institute Address - Inclusive Growth

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SPEECH

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MCKELL INSTITUTE ADDRESS – INCLUSIVE GROWTH

UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY

5 NOVEMBER, 2014

 

When William McKell started as a student at Bourke Street Public School in the late 1890’s, the school was about a decade old - part of the relatively new public school system here in New South Wales.

This revolutionary investment in public education allowed a young child, the son of a butcher, to embark upon a journey that would see him become first a boiler maker and trade unionist, then state member for Redfern, NSW Premier, and finally Governor-General.

His story is part of Labor’s great tradition of the pursuit of opportunity and egalitarianism.

Like many of you, I was at Sydney Town Hall this morning to celebrate that great Labor tradition as we farewelled our dearly loved comrade, Gough Whitlam.

Tony Whitlam told us that his father chose the music today – indeed, he joked his father would have liked to speak today, but the rules of the game prevent that.

Gough chose the great socialist hymn, Jerusalem and Paul Kelly’s Australian classic From Little Things Big Things Grow, about the Wave Hill walk off: two songs that remind us that our struggle is long, but that our dreams for a better, fairer society can be realised.

As Gough said in 1972 Labor has a mission to “liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people”.

It is a task that is never complete, and a duty that will not abide idleness.

For Gough the pursuit of equality was “not an attempt to accomplish everything overnight, but to move steadily towards our social goals, ensuring that the areas of greatest human need have the first claim on the community’s resources”.

He was both pragmatic and idealistic: campaigning for roads and sewers for the young families in new suburbs of Western Sydney - at the same time championing the University that would educate its people.

He knew that idealism was not enough on its own – that it had to be partnered with the power to make change. (Only the impotent are pure, he told us.)

And he knew that power shouldn’t be wasted: the status quo is not good enough. We should aim higher as a nation.

This is what Labor believes in – a strong economy and a fair society, change which benefits us all; improvements today which are an investment in our future.

As a teenager amongst my favourite books were the dystopian / utopian novels often prompted by social and economic turmoil like the Great War and the great depression.

I particularly liked Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It described a peaceful society, every element practical and beautiful, with teaching considered the highest calling. It was a civilisation of women only, with no war, no want, and no violence.

These utopian novels, rising out of the struggle and idealism of the great socialist movements of the nineteenth century may seem quaint today, and there’s plenty of people who are quick to accuse us of being the authors of utopian fiction ourselves.

But it turns out the idealists were right all along.

The Case for Inclusive Growth

And it turns out that the new expression of this vision for a more equal and more just society, “inclusive growth” is able to unite some pretty diverse people.

Who would have thought, for example, that the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and the International Labor Organisation would be on a unity ticket with the Governor of the Bank of England and Lady Rothschild? Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and the Pope? Economists and civil society? It seems agreement is breaking out everywhere that inequality is bad for us all.

Beyond the moral imperative, the argument goes, we can’t afford to waste the talents of our people; we don’t want the political, financial and social instability that comes from division; the crime, violence and poverty; and, what’s more, the numbers tell the story: more equal societies have stronger and longer growth.

The IMF is not generally thought of as a hot bed of progressive idealism, but it recently looked at 173 countries over 50 years and concluded that inequality is a drag on growth. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said 'put simply, a severely skewed income distribution harms the pace and sustainability of growth over the longer term”.

Not only does reduced inequality support stronger and longer periods of economic growth, the research finds against the old chestnut that redistribution is bad for growth.

Even stranger, is the activism of a group of institutional investors, asset managers, corporations, sovereign wealth funds and financial institutions calling themselves the Inclusive Capitalism Initiative. ICI was established in 2011 to seek “practical ways to renew capitalism to make it an engine of economic opportunity and shared prosperity”.

When Mark Carney, Governor of Bank of England, addressed an ICI meeting chaired by Lady Rothschild in May this year, he said “few would disagree that a society that provides opportunity to all of its citizens is more likely to thrive than one which favours an elite”.

He said that equality of opportunity has fallen, social mobility has declined and that this has undercut a sense of fairness; a basic social contract is breaking down. He laments the loss of a “sense of society”. IMF director Christine Lagarde explained at that same meeting why the IMF has taken an interest in inequality: “Our mandate is financial stability. Anything that is likely to rock the boat financially and macroeconomically is within our mandate”.

Like the IMF and ICI, the World Bank is not a radical organisation. It too argues that a “rapid pace of growth is unquestionably necessary for substantial poverty reduction, but for this growth to be sustainable in the long run, it should be broad-based across sectors, and inclusive of a large part of a country's labour force.” The World Bank also says systematic inequality of opportunity is “toxic” to growth.

We even have pretty convincing data about how much growing inequality slows growth.

In a report jointly submitted by the OECD, International Labour Organisation and World Bank Group to the G20 Employment Minister's meeting, they put a solid number on the link between inequality and slower growth, using the Gini co-efficient, the most commonly used measure of income inequality. A 5 point gap in the Gini co-efficient is the equivalent to a one percent difference in GDP per capita growth.

This argument for inclusive growth has struck a chord, with two rock star economists becoming household names arguing the case.

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz observes that “We can no longer talk about rising inequality and sluggish economic recovery as separate phenomena… they are in fact intertwined - inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth”.

He demonstrates how top-heavy income distribution lessens aggregate demand – the rich tend to spend a smaller fraction of their income than the poor – and he shows how this slows economic growth.

But Stiglitz concludes that perhaps the worst dimension of inequality is inequality of opportunity, where large numbers of individuals are not able to live up to their potential. As well as undermining social cohesion, the waste of talent prevents those same people from contributing to our collective good through productive work.

French economist Thomas Picketty has published a 700 page book which has become an unlikely best-seller. He argues that internationally we are heading back to levels of inequality not seen since the 'Gilded Age' of the late 19th century - and that we should do something about it.

There is something about this particular work, at this particular time, which has struck a chord around the world.

As Brad DeLong, Professor of Economics at Berkeley put it: “society today is largely failing…its majority, in that for all of our cheap electronic toys, life is no easier than it was a generation ago.”

In The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett also look at the impact of inequality on society - the erosion of trust, increased anxiety and illness. They examine eleven different health and social issues, like  drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility and community life, violence, teen pregnancy, and child well-being and show that (predictably) all the outcomes are worse in more unequal countries.

What’s significant, though, is the outcomes aren’t just worse for the poorest people in those countries, they’re worse for the average person, and even for the rich.

The effects of a more divided society are economically and socially pernicious, and unfortunately they’re getting worse not better.

Piketty, like Stiglitz, points to extensive evidence of growing inequality since the 1970s with high incomes earners taking an unprecedented share of global income.

Recent work by Oxfam shows that half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

The bottom half of the world’s population – about three and a half billion people - owns the same as the richest 85 individuals in the world.

Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

And as Picketty points out, without determined intervention, these gaps will continue to grow.

My colleague Andrew Leigh has looked at Australian figures, and found since the mid 1970s real earnings for the top tenth cent have risen by 59 percent while for the bottom tenth they have risen by just 15 per cent.

Today the three richest Australians have more wealth than the million poorest.

The Gini co-efficient – that most common measure of income inequality – has been getting worse overall for decades in Australia, with a notable improvement during the Rudd/Gillard years – thank you world’s best Treasurer Wayne Swan.

I won’t run through all the evidence and arguments tonight, but I’ll share with you the words of my favourite Pope: Francis I. He has said: “Some people continue to defend trickle down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion … has never been confirmed by the facts, and expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacrilized workings of the prevailing economic system”.

I think it’s fair to say that it’s now pretty widely accepted that poverty and inequality are a drag on growth and leech away economic as well as human potential: that there is an economic as well as a moral case for tackling inequality.

So how are we doing in Australia?

My dear friend Tom Uren was a Prisoner of War on the Thai-Burma railway. He has spoken many times of the survival rate of Australian POWs compared with the POWs of other nations.

Australians survived those harsh times better, he says, because under the leadership of men like Weary Dunlop, the strong looked after the weak, the prisoners shared what little food and medicine there was, with priority to those who needed it most.

Conservatives like to claim for themselves the pride of Australia’s war service, and the cloak of mateship, but what mateship really means is the strong looking after the weak; it means offering a helping hand when you can and accepting one when you need to; it’s solidarity.

But in the same way they are prepared to ignore the evidence on climate change, the same conservatives are determined to ignore the growing body of evidence that inequality is bad for us all.

In fact, when the Abbott Government took over the presidency of the G20, they deliberately removed the word “inclusive” from the growth target in the G20 outcomes.  They want growth, they have signaled, but not inclusive growth.

And it’s not just on the international stage that the Government has turned its back on inclusive growth: domestically everything this government does undermines equality and promotes division.

Joseph Stiglitz was bemused and alarmed on his most recent visit to Australia to see us deregulating university education and increasing health costs, and arguing for more market fundamentalism. He urged Australia to reject a prescription which has led to faster growth in inequality in the US.

Australia’s economic fundamentals are strong by international standards. We came through the Global Financial Crisis better than just about any advanced economy.

When Labor came to office there were 16 countries that could claim three AAA credit ratings with a stable outlook, and Australia wasn’t one of them.  When we left office we were one of only eight countries in the world with a AAA credit rating with a stable outlook from all three major credit ratings agencies.  Something the Liberals never achieved.

  • We started the GFC with an unemployment rate similar to the United States. The US rate peaked at 10 per cent in 2009. Australia’s rate peaked at 5.9 per cent.  In fact, unemployment is higher now, after the global crisis, and is now, under the Liberals, at the highest level in more than a decade.

We saw the creation of almost a million jobs during Labor’s time in office, compared with about 31 million jobs lost around the world.

Labor’s budgets shaped our nation.

The Abbott Government’s most recent budget is a clear illustration of the difference between Labor and the conservatives in this country.

You only need to hear Joe Hockey’s rhetoric about “lifters and leaners” and the “end of the age of entitlement” to understand the thinking behind the cuts to health, education, pensions, science, the ABC and so on.

Mr Hockey is following the discredited austerity-budgeting approach which has seen growth slow internationally to “mediocre” – a state that Christine Lagarde fears is a new normal.

We know the Liberals budget-crisis rhetoric is false because they doubled have the deficit since coming to office, and are determined to pursue untargeted, unproductive spending like:

  • a $20 billion Paid Parental Leave scheme, that pays the biggest benefit to those with the highest income;  and
  • an $8.8 billion injection to the Reserve Bank – a fiddle designed to blow out the deficit in the short term and pay dividends to improve the bottom line in subsequent years (a fiddle that’s just paid $1.2 billion).

We also know that the budget emergency is false because the Government has been prepared to forgo billions of dollars from charging big polluters for the rubbish they put into the atmosphere, and instead will give $2.5 billion of tax payers’ hard-earned to big polluters with no guarantee of an overall fall in carbon emissions;

If it was a real budget emergency, the government would have kept a minerals resource rent tax, wouldn’t have reversed Labor’s measures to prevent multinational companies shifting their profits offshore, and our sensible moves to reduce high income earners claiming tax breaks on very high superannuation balances.

Of course, money invested in keeping Australians working during the GFC has to be repaid, and the budget brought back to surplus as our economy returns to normal.

But the government is using the excuse of this false budget emergency to cut social investment, and they are doing it for ideological reasons.

They see health, education, science and innovation, disability support, pensions and other supports only in terms of cost. They miss the benefits of these long term investments.

The Abbott Government’s Budget savings fall disproportionately on Australia’s poorest and will contribute to increased inequality.  For example, an unemployed 26 year old earning about $13,000 is around $7000 a year worse off, while someone earning $250,000 is just $1500 worse off. A family with 2 kids will be about $6,000 a year worse off.

Instead of seeing social investment as a cost, the government should pursue well designed programs that increase workforce participation and productivity. I’m pleased my colleague Jenny Macklin, is leading a national conversation about such measures now.

Our whole history as a party has seen us working to design and implement the clever investments that unlock the potential of our people:

From Medibank and more accessible university education in the Whitlam years, to universal access to pre-school, Gonski school education funding reforms and the National Disability Insurance Scheme more recently.

Our great social reforms have also been great economic reforms:

Increased workforce participation for women, for example, gives women individual freedom and autonomy, but it’s also good for the nation.

If Australian women had as much access to paid work as women in Canada – implying an extra 6 per cent of women in the workforce — Australia’s GDP would be about $25 billion higher.

Our Gonski school education funding reform is about making sure every Australian child in every Australian school has a great education.

Kids were getting left behind. While Australia was doing well overall in international surveys of educational attainment, the gap between students from wealthy and poorer backgrounds was one of the worst in the world. So we decided to reform school funding to give the greatest support to those with the greatest need. To give them, as Gough would have said, “first claim on the community’s resources”.

As well as the individual benefit that a great education brings to each child, we benefit as a nation.

The Business Council of Australia estimates that an increase of about 55 days in the average level of schooling of the workforce would result in a 1.1 per cent increase in GDP by 2040 or about $16 billion in today’s dollars.

The same principle is also true of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  Disabled Australians made a compelling case that they deserve the same right to participate in society and the economy as any Australian, but as well as this incontrovertible rights-based argument, done right the NDIS will lead to greater workforce participation: an economic good too.

And, of course, a progressive taxation system that reduces the burden on those who spend most of their income on day to day living, and taxes instead those who can afford to pay is a vital part of the picture.

Just as conservatives focus on economy at the expense of society, progressives can’t afford to focus on social investment without thinking about national prosperity.

To prepare for the future we need to focus on both fairness and growth and understand their indivisibility.

Jobs – the key to inclusive growth

The best way to achieve inclusive growth is for Australians who can, to be working, and to have decent pay and conditions.

We can’t afford the sort of jobs growth they’ve had in US where there is a growing number of low-wage jobs supplemented with food stamps.  17 per cent of households that rely on food stamps are now headed by a person in full time work and President Obama still can’t get Congress to increase the $7.25 minimum wage.

We need to see strong jobs growth and a workforce capable of doing the jobs of the future.

Our challenge is to create meaningful work in the face of technological change (“tech disruption”) globalization, and shifting demographics.

We can’t predict exactly what these changes will be, or where the jobs of the future are coming from.

But we can prepare for them.

Ken Henry has recently written persuasively about what he calls the responsibility of public policy in the nurturing of national endowments that support human capability, like education, health, infrastructure, innovation and strong public and private institutions.

It is investment in the capability of our people and the strength of our institutions that will ready Australia for the jobs and economic opportunities and challenges of the future.

That’s what will make us competitive internationally.

Australia in the World

Just as inequality is bad for us domestically, more equal growth is good for us internationally.

We want other nations to do well.

We want their people to prosper.

It’s a foundational principle of the Labor Party, captured by Chifley’s ‘light on the hill’ – that we should bring “better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people … not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand”.

We want other nations to do well because we don’t want anyone to live with poverty and insecurity anywhere, but we should also acknowledge that most often their success is our success. The stunning growth of countries like Japan, Korea and China has underpinned our prosperity, especially through the Australian mining boom.

Economic growth has enabled hundreds of millions of people to escape poverty.

China, for example, is estimated to have lifted 500 million of its own citizens out of poverty.

But again, the type of growth matters.

China has aggressively lifted minimum wages and is looking to an increase in domestic demand to underpin a larger share of its future growth. Growing wealth has increased the expectations of China’s citizens for a stronger safety net, better education and a cleaner environment.

The quality of growth is increasingly important to Chinese citizens and their government.

And it hasn’t been growth alone which has done the job of lifting millions out of poverty across the developing world.

For more than a decade, the Millennium Development Goals, targets agreed on by world leaders in 2000, have, mostly successfully, worked to reduce the amount of extreme poverty worldwide.

In his 2008 address to the UN General Assembly, the philanthropist Bill Gates called the eight goals "the best idea for focusing the world on fighting global poverty that I have ever seen."

As a result, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day has reduced dramatically – with 600 million fewer people living in extreme poverty.

The likelihood of a child dying before the age of five has been nearly cut in half, which means about 17,000 children’s lives saved every day.

The rate of maternal mortality dropped by 45 per cent.

Antiretroviral therapy for HIV-infected people has saved 6.6 million lives; TB treatments - 22 million and 3.3 million deaths from malaria have been avoided with simple measures like insecticide treated bed nets.

Just as “trickle down economics” has been debunked in developed economies, the notion that unbridled capitalism is all it takes to lift nations out of poverty doesn’t bear too much scrutiny.

Growth is good, but the way countries grow matters too.

Joe Hockey has used Australia’s Presidency of the G20 to pursue the goal of lifting global growth by an additional 2 per cent by 2018 – or a staggering $2 trillion US dollars over the next five years.

Unfortunately Australia is not arguing about the characteristics of this growth, but merely, simplistically, for a number.

Director of Equity Economics Amanda Robbins argues that real leadership at the G20 would also involve Australia seeking to build on the 2 per cent growth target by including a measure of inclusive growth.

She suggests that one option would be to commit to a target, in each G20 country, of lifting the incomes of the poorest 20 per cent by at least 2 per cent above trend in real terms by 2018 – It’s a simple, measurable, achievable and proportionate target. It also reflects the language of past G20 summits, before the ideologues got in the way.

Conclusion

It is the impulse of Labor people to fight for fairness. It’s in our guts.

What we saw today, as our tribe gathered, was a celebration of a great man: a pragmatist, not afraid of fighting for and wielding power; an idealist, determined to use that power to “uplift the horizons of the Australian people”.

And we saw a celebration of the fight for fairness.

We’ve learnt that our impulses may be idealistic, even utopian, but they deliver the goods when it comes to stronger economic growth too.

We now see that our best interests and our better angels align.

 

ENDS 

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