Speech at The Welcome Reception for Australian American Leadership Dialogue – Young Leadership Dialogue

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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 AT THE WELCOME RECEPTION FOR AUSTRALIAN AMERICAN LEADERSHIP DIALOGUE – YOUNG LEADERSHIP DIALOGUE

 14 MAY 2014

CANBERRA

  • I am very pleased to be here tonight to welcome delegates to Parliament House.
  • While there are a lot of similarities between Australians and Americans – there are also differences.
  • Just one of the differences is that it is completely beyond me how anyone would find Two and a Half Men funny.  I just don’t get it.
  • But in deeper and much more meaningful ways, there is much on which we do share an understanding.
  • I have been thinking every day about the plight of 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped recently. I was pleased to hear the United States pledge to help find them and return them, and I’ve said so to your marvelous Ambassador.
  • The girls were kidnapped from their school dormitory by a terrorist organization hell bent on preventing girls from getting an education. Boko Haram literally means western education is sinful.

Michelle Obama’s used her address on Mothers’ Day to speak about the girls and their families, and the 65 million girls missing out on an education around the world. Her words reflect a shared set of values between our two nations:

  • We believe in the  right to have a decent education;
  • We believe in extending and protecting human rights;
  • We support the rights of women to participate equally in society, the workforce and economy;
  • We believe people should have religious freedom and be able to practice religion or refuse to, without discrimination;  and
  • We believe that everyone should have the right to work hard to better their circumstances if they can.
  • So while I will never get the appeal of Charlie Sheen…
  • With other Australians I will always see the US as one of the countries most similar to Australia in outlook and values.
  • And we also see the US as one of our closest and most constant friends.
  • Our friendship, our shared values and common outlook – are made all the stronger through initiatives like the Young Leadership Dialogue.
  • I would like to congratulate Australian American leadership Dialogue and the Youth Leadership Dialogue, and formally welcome delegates to Parliament House.
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H. V. Evatt Memorial Lecture

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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

H. V. EVATT MEMORIAL LECTURE

 

SATURDAY, 14 APRIL 2014

H. V. Evatt was Prime Minister Curtin’s minister for External Affairs when Curtin made his famous appeal to the United States for help protecting Australia in December 1941, marking the beginning of the move away from sole reliance on Britain as the ‘great power’ which would protect us. After the war, Evatt recognised that, alongside our important new alliance with America, Australia should also be working with other small and medium powers to influence global issues.Evatt took us from a time where we would look first to one great power then another for our security, to being part of a global community which, critically, Australia helped to shape.

Evatt knew that to address truly global challenges, Australia and indeed all countries need to be able to act within a global community. Evatt’s role in the negotiations at San Francisco to draft the charter for the United Nations established him as a world figure and won him many friends among smaller nations. This led to his selection in 1948 as president of the United Nations General Assembly. Evatt’s prodigious energy was noted by one of his staff at the time, Paul Hasluck – a critic who later became a Liberal Minister for External Affairs. Hasluck wrote this about Evatt’s efforts in the San Francisco negotiations:

Day after day for ten weeks from early morning until late at night his concentration on the task and the intensity of his efforts had a ferocity that made me wonder what strange demon had possessed him.

I think the demon was Evatt’s determination that Australia’s voice should be heard as the postwar order was being built. Evatt explained why smaller powers needed a bigger voice:

No power is so great that it can ignore the will of the peoples of the world expressed through the [United Nations] Assembly and no power is so small that it cannot contribute to the making of world opinion through the Assembly.

The overwhelming challenge for Evatt was to put in place the right measures to secure and support global peace. He knew that no country working alone could avert a repeat of the rivalry between major powers and the disastrous global conflict we saw in the first half of the 20th century. Evatt understood that, for Australia, it would be through our major alliances and through multilateral agreements and relationships that we would contribute to a more stable and peaceful world.

Evatt helped build a world where the United Nations could provide an institutional framework for co-operation between countries to ensure peace. And the challenge of peace remains – we see the dangerous potential for conflict through unilateral actions today – despite the maturity of multilateral institutions. For the most part however, these institutions serve us well.

Post-Evatt Labor

Labor leaders and foreign ministers since Evatt have built on the tradition he helped create. Key parts of Whitlam’s foreign policy were in the Evatt mould –
• support for the US alliance; alongside
• a belief in the importance of multilateral institutions to maximise Australia’s interests and influence; and
• engagement with countries in the region, starting with the diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating also drew on Evatt’s legacy. The Hawke and Keating governments promoted Australia’s role as a middle power through multilateral forums such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, and in arms control negotiations. The Hawke government’s role in creating the Cairns Group was critical to boosting Australian exports through the successful Uruguay Round of trade talks. Another of Hawke’s big achievements was driving the creation, in 1989, of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as a vehicle to boost trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. Paul Keating went on to strengthen APEC with his successful campaign to elevate the annual APEC meetings to include a leaders’ forum from 1993.

Critics sometimes complain when meetings such as these don’t produce big headlines and momentous decisions. But this misses the point. One benefit of such meetings is to improve personal understanding between leaders and other participants. The APEC leaders’ meeting of 1999 was of great benefit to Prime Minister John Howard as the East Timor crisis was escalating. Howard used the opportunity of the leaders’ meeting in Auckland to lobby for a peacekeeping mission to East Timor. This would have been much more difficult – perhaps impossible – if the countries had not all been gathered together for the leaders’ meeting. And Gareth Evans’ monumental success in Cambodia shows that backed up by the international community Australia can play a leading role in restoring peace.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard continued to strengthen regional engagement and gave energetic support for multilateral approaches to international issues, while maintaining strong support for the US alliance. Kevin Rudd was instrumental in seizing the opportunity of the G20 meeting to manage the global response to the GFC of 2008. The US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell, said Kevin Rudd ‘was relentless in his making of the case; he persuaded key players, [and] made the case with a number of players who were a bit reluctant’. This gave Australia an influential role in the response to the crisis. Until then, global economic decisions had been dominated by the G8 – a group that excluded not only Australia but critical players such as China and other emerging economies.

Evatt and his Labor successors pursued international partnership to support peace, nuclear disarmament, an end to colonialism in Indonesia, even, more recently, an end to so-called scientific whaling. Whatever frustrations come with the slowness inherent in using international bodies to achieve significant change, it is difficult to see how a country like Australia – number 51 in the world by population size – would have been able to have the influence we’ve had otherwise.

And just as peace in the 20th century was a challenge impossible to address without engagement in international fora, we face modern challenges that cannot be addressed by countries working on their own. One of these challenges is climate change. It is clear that we cannot tackle a problem as complex as climate change unless countries across the globe co-operate. Yet under the Howard Government Australia stood aloof.

When Labor was elected in 2007 we joined the global fight. Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol – the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a great example of using a multilateral institution to tackle global problems. But now the Coalition is back, and to the consternation of many Australians, and indeed governments around the world, retreating from action on climate change. This isn’t just an abstract issue; here in the Blue Mountains you know too well the impact of extraordinary weather events on the lives and livelihoods of your community.

And for some of our neighbours climate change has imminent and potentially devastating consequences. Kiribati’s President has predicted his country is likely to become uninhabitable within decades because of inundation, and contamination of its fresh water supplies. And the recent floods in the Solomon Islands following an extraordinary weather event have tragically claimed 23 lives and left 9000 people homeless. Of course, fires and floods happened before climate change was an issue, but the frequency and severity of these extreme events will continue to increase unless we take substantial action now, and as the world’s largest per capita emitters of carbon pollution we must be involved in the global effort to slow global warming.

Poverty & inequality

Another global challenge which requires concerted action is poverty. Australia is one of 189 countries that signed up to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a shared world vision for reducing poverty. The MDGs aim to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day by 2015 relative to 1990. The MDGs create a collective responsibility of all UN member countries to meet the goals and targets set out in the declaration by 2015.

Australia has played a role in this international multilateral effort by being generous in funding international aid. As opposition leader in 2007, Kevin Rudd committed a Labor government to doubling the Australian aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GNI (Gross National Income), or around $8 billion a year. At that time, the Coalition was spending $2.9 billion a year on aid. Between 2007 and 2013 Labor almost doubled the aid program to $5.7 billion – despite the tough budgetary environment. Why? Because it reflected our values – to support sustainable development, share the benefits of prosperity, and reduce poverty and inequality.

We recognise and embrace the benefits of contributing to global social and economic development and as a global community we’ve made significant progress on the MDGs, although of course significant challenges remain. Unfortunately, just a couple of days out from the election the Coalition announced cuts of $4.5 billion from Australia’s aid program over the next four years. The Prime Minister has recently confirmed a further $12 billion will be cut from Labor’s forward commitments on aid funding, over the three years from 2017–18.

The Abbott Government has also dismantled Australia’s specialist aid agency, AusAID, which has been delivering a globally recognised and effective aid program for almost four decades. And the government has narrowed the outcomes for the aid program. It has removed references to poverty reduction and sustainable development in favour of ‘advancing Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests’.

The government is making decisions about funding and priorities for the aid program by asking ‘What’s in it for us?’ This is happening at a crucial time in global efforts on poverty reduction. Right now the UN is developing a new framework to replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. The OECD is clear that the challenge of addressing global poverty remains – and the post-2015 framework will rely on both an effective global partnership and an adequate volume of aid funding.

There is a very pragmatic answer to ‘What’s in it for us?’ with Australian aid. Countries we used to give aid to have become middle income countries and important trade partners for us; our health aid has reduced the spread of illnesses which potentially threaten Australia. But our aid program is also a reflection of our ability, as the 12th largest economy in the world, to do our share to lift others out of poverty. It is a reflection of our values. It means real progress for real people. The government’s decisions have consequences for our neighbours. What did we achieve with our increased aid funding and our expertise?

In PNG we:

• provided essential medical supplies to more than 2000 hospitals, health centres and aid posts;
• improved support for around 20,000 victims of sexual and family violence;
• reduced, in just one year, the mortality rate for drug-resistant TB in Western Province from 25 per cent to just 5 per cent;
• supported the abolition of school fees for the first three grades of school;
• delivered 1.6 million textbooks to 3500 schools across the country; and
• fixed over 12,800 kilometres of rural roads.

In Afghanistan we have supported:

• increases in school enrolments from around 1 million in 2001 to more than 8 million in 2013, including over 3 million girls;
• training for 3400 teachers;
• immunisation of 428,000 children against polio;
• family planning, antenatal care, postnatal care and vaccination for over 300,000 women;
• improved maternal health care, with at least 74 per cent of pregnant women now receiving at least one antenatal health care visit; and
• an increase in the number of births attended by skilled attendants from 24 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent in 2012.

In Cambodia:

• In 2011, 5000 square metres of community and leasehold land was cleared of landmines and unexploded ordinance, benefiting more than 40,000 people;
• Since 2007, 2100 classrooms have been built or repaired, allowing more children to go to school and learn in better and safer conditions; and
• We provided training in HIV and human trafficking for at-risk communities.

In Timor-Leste we:

• helped over 30,000 farmers grow improved varieties of crops with yield increases of between 20 per cent and 80 per cent; and
• assisted more than 77,000 people to access safe water and 67,000 people to access basic sanitation facilities.

Labor’s commitments on aid funding reflected Australia as a mature and compassionate country. Equally, the Coalition’s cuts to aid are a reflection of its values. The Coalition Government has narrowed the focus of its aid budget, an approach it calls an ‘aid for trade’. Promoting trade in developing countries through aid is an important goal – but not at the expense of poverty reduction.

When we improved the security in PNG markets for PNG women, that meant a degree of economic independence, as they could safely sell their wares; it meant family income which could be spent on educating children. Of course economic development is important in poverty reduction. But aid should not be a back door way of buying market access. Increased trade with developing economies has to be part of a long game. It starts with reducing disadvantage and poverty and increasing the wellbeing and capacity of the community, promoting good governance and corruption resistance.

Reducing poverty and inequality is morally good, but it’s also economically sensible. There is growing evidence, including from the OECD and the IMF, that shows that inequality reduces economic growth. Reducing disadvantage and poverty is a good in and of itself, and must be a focus – particularly for those countries, like ours, that can easily afford to lend a hand. And it must continue to be the focus of the international efforts that will be marshalled in the post-2015 MDGs.

Conclusion

There are plenty of opportunities for bi-partisanship in foreign affairs. But there are important differences. Labor is not starry-eyed, but we do take a forward-looking, optimistic view of the benefits of multilateral co-operation. We take a broader view of the ways we can protect and advance Australia’s interests. And we take a more generous view of the role we should play to help those who need a hand up. Successful foreign policy mixes pragmatism and idealism, realism and liberalism. Of course states will act to maximise their own interests, and material power matters. But that’s not the end of our responsibilities, nor the end of our possibilities. States can and do co-operate. Institutions to promote co-operation and international law help that process.

The world has changed a great deal in the six decades since Bert Evatt was Minister for External Affairs. But the principles behind the foreign policy tradition he helped create remain a powerful example today. Labor values our strong relationship with the United States – and it is not surprising that we agree on most issues. But we also believe that a key test of friendship is being frank when you disagree, as Labor disagreed about the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.

Labor believes that our alliances and our strong relationships with our nearest neighbours and economic partners are critical to our security and prosperity. We are in the Asian century and Australia is ideally placed to reap the advantages of that.

Labor believes many of the big challenges of the world are best handled multilaterally, and that Australia can have a role and at times can lead those efforts. That’s why we pursued Security Council membership. That’s why we helped make the G20, rather than the G8, the pre-eminent body for tackling the global financial crisis. Bert Evatt exemplified these beliefs, and showed how Australia can maximise its influence by being a constructive neighbour and a generous and collaborative global citizen.

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Speech: Nelson Mandela Condolence Motion

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT 

NELSON MANDELA CONDOLENCE MOTION 

SPEECH TO THE PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

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There's a story from Robben Island which speaks to the power of words, and art, to inspire and to sustain the human spirit.

The story goes the political prisoners used to secretly pass around a copy of Shakespeare's collected works. On one occasion, the men marked their favourite passages.

Mandela chose one from Julius Caesar.

Cowards die many times before their deaths,

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

Well, it has now come for Nelson Mandela.

We should be thankful that he lived, fought and led his country.

But we mourn the fact he's now passed from this world.

There was a news report a few nights ago, where the presenter remarked dawn was breaking in South Africa for the first time in 95 years without Nelson Mandela.

There is something in that. Such an iconic figure can sometimes take on the stature of being permanent.

But the nature of human history is that everything is fleeting – a “mere brief passing moment in time and space,” as Mandela put it.

No longer do freedom fighters have the living and breathing Mandela to look to.

He belongs to history now, the man who spent more than a quarter of his life, his “long, lonely, wasted years” imprisoned by a regime which he was prepared to give his life to bring down, only to preach reconciliation on his release.

The man who brought down apartheid without, in the end, a shot being fired, now belongs to an echelon reserved for leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King – who first said those words Mandela repeated on his release – “free at last”.

Indomitable fighters for the expression and realisation of human dignity.

Names which will always inspire millions to think and to act and to fight.

We are all bound by the times we live in. There's been some commentary over the past few days pointing out Mandela was no saint, as if it's a criticism.

Well of course he wasn't.

He was a political leader engaged in a bitter struggle; a political leader reacting to the unpredictability of human events, and the grotesque nature of apartheid.

Or, in his own words, he was a “product of the mire that (his) society was.”

It's one of those ironies of history which reveals the complexity of the human condition: men and women created something as repressive as apartheid

But men and women in Africa and around the world, led by Mandela, were part of the movement of millions which brought it down.

The contradiction of all this is that while Mandela's struggle reveals complexity, it also provides a moral clarity.

Dividing a country based on race and class is wrong.

Denying a person his or her inherent rights based on the colour of their skin is wrong.

Fighting racism is right.

Uniting a troubled country through reconciliation and forgiveness is right.

We should not forget those millions who fought alongside Mandela. While they were lucky to have a leader of his stature, their struggle should never be forgotten.

Mandela, and his people’s struggle, was a touchstone for generations of progressive people around the globe. There would be people in this Parliament today who could trace their political awakening to the anti-apartheid movement. It was formative for many of us.

I'm proud to be a member of a party which supported Mandela's struggle for the decades in which he was in prison.

I’m proud to be part of a labour movement, of party activists and trade unionists, which long supported sanctions as one of the fundamental ways the international community united to help to bring down apartheid.

There can hardly be a person who was of age in February 1990 who can't recall the jolt of excitement as Mandela walked free.

Likewise, the triumph of his 1994 election.

We were lucky to share Mandela's times.

He said that to “overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of every man.”

The world is better because he lived, and fought.

But, like the valiant in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, he has now come to the necessary end we all shall taste.

Mandela once remarked that the “names of only very few people are remembered beyond their lives.”

He will be one of these people.

Australia mourns his end, but gives thanks for his life.

MONDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2013 

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Speech to the Australian Council for International Development

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Speech to the Australian Council for International Development

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Acknowledgments and introduction

I would like to acknowledge:

-         The traditional owners of the land, the Ngunnawal people

-         The Honourable Dr Meredith Burgmann, the President of ACFID

-         Marc Purcell, the Executive Director of ACFID

The fight against global poverty is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century.

It’s a fight in which Australia has a strategic, economic, and moral stake.

My party has always believed in the fair go, and not just for our citizens, but for our neighbours too.

We believe that a society as wealthy as ours has an obligation to advance the development of the poorest people, communities, and nations, and assist them to a better life.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the work of everyone in this room.

I’d also like to acknowledge the key role ACFID plays, including through your code of conduct, in ensuring Australia’s aid sector is world leading in its accountability, transparency and effectiveness.

Everyone here would like to be able to flick a switch to eradicate extreme poverty, illiteracy, health inequalities, child mortality, gender inequality, food insecurity and environmental problems.

But there isn’t a switch to flick; there’s only complex, painstaking, patient work – and I know many of you have been at it for years.

However frustrating the pace of change is, your successes are there. The last fifteen years has seen significant progress made in reaching a

number of the Millennium Development Goals.

Six million fewer children died in 2012 than in 1990, and the developing world is on track to halve the number of people living in poverty by 2015.

Australia’s contribution has been good.

We’ve helped 6 million Afghan children (including 2 million girls) go to school. We’ve helped cut malaria cases by 80% in Vanuatu and more than 50% in the Solomon Islands; we’ve helped construct 2000 schools across Indonesia.

Of course meeting other Millennium Development Goals remains challenging and some regions are struggling more than others.

I know the sector is now discussing where international development policy should go after 2015, and this is a discussion I look forward to having with you.

Today I wanted to set out a few markers for both myself and the new Labor Opposition when it comes to international development policy.

Two tests in international development policy

For Labor, the fundamental goal of Australia’s aid policy should be to overcome poverty and to save and improve lives.

Of course, I’m new to this portfolio, but it seems to me there are two baseline questions – how much do we give? and how successful is that giving?

Are we as a nation paying our fair share?

And just as important, is our aid effort effective?

They are the questions I’ll judge our own efforts by, and they are standards of accountability to which I will hold the Government.

We need to ensure a well-funded sector

The ALP has two goals for the quantum of our international development effort.

The first is to increase our official development assistance spend to 0.5% of gross national income.

Beyond, we believe in working towards a target of 0.7% GNI.

I understand that there are people here today who were concerned when our 0.5% target slipped from 2015 to 2017 because of the GFC.

But, under our government, Australia’s contribution to official development assistance grew with every Budget. In 2006-07 the Australian Government invested $2.9 billion and by 2013-14 that had grown to $5.7 billion.

Labor remains committed to meeting the 0.5% target and will hold firm on working towards the longer term target of 0.7%.

I know many in this room will feel 0.5% of GNI, or even 0.7% are modest targets, but it looks as though under the Abbott government we won’t even get there.

The Coalition’s decision to slash $4.5 billion from Australia’s aid budget, announced at one minute to midnight in the dying days of the election campaign, is a severe disappointment to millions of Australians who agree that we have an ethical responsibility to help, and it’s a betrayal of the poorest of the poor in our region and around the globe.

Speaking in May 2011, Joe Hockey claimed Australian families would be “riled” to know that Labor had been planning to increase the aid budget.

Why, he was asked.

Well, Joe Hockey claimed, at a time when Australia had such a significant debt and deficit problem, we simply couldn’t afford this.

I think the first few weeks of the Abbott Government has revealed the fraud at the heart of this rhetoric.

Just last week, the Treasurer borrowed nearly $9 billion to give to the Reserve Bank, which it seems may not have been needed.

In just over a month in office, the Government has doubled the debt ceiling so it can borrow more money.

But they’ve announced they will take $4.5 billion from the world’s poor on the false pretence that Australia cannot afford it.

To put this into perspective, $4.5 billion is greater than what was budgeted by our Labor Government in 2013-14 for the entire AusAID country and global program.

But that’s only half of what the new Treasurer gifted to the Reserve Bank.

Our international development policy should be high quality

As I said earlier, it’s not just the amount of our international development assistance that’s important, it’s the quality.

That’s why Labor undertook a significant review into aid effectiveness to ensure Australia’s international development policy was actually working to help people overcome poverty.

We were determined to ensure our aid program was not just better resourced, but of a higher quality too; that more was spent on front line services like health and education.

It’s why we made enhancing transparency and accountability key planks to ensure effectiveness.

And it’s why we were determined to strengthen Australian Government partnerships with accountable and proven NGOs like those represented in this room.

Poor quality aid is not just a waste of public money and ineffective in reducing poverty, but can and will undermine public support for our aid program and public willingness to make personal donations to NGOs.

That’s why today is such a critical day for international development policy in Australia.

This is AusAID’s last day as a standalone agency.

From tomorrow, Australia’s aid program will be delivered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Firstly, I would like to publicly thank all of AusAID’s staff – past and present.

AusAID has been staffed by dedicated Australians who, like everyone here, have sought to make the world a better place through the eradication of extreme poverty.

This merger has been sudden, traumatic, and leaves unanswered questions.

Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop talk of the need to align Australia’s aid policy with our diplomacy.

The Prime Minister has even said he “doesn't want our diplomacy going in one direction and our aid program going in another direction.”

I’d like them to point to one instance when aid and diplomacy have been in conflict.

Of course we consider issues such as our responsibility to our near neighbours being more acute and demanding than our responsibility to more distant friends, but our aid policy already reflects this.

Aid versus diplomacy is a false dichotomy.

Helping our neighbours develop strong economies means better markets for our goods; helping our neighbours improve their health systems means fewer health threats (like the development of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis) on our doorstep; increasing the number of children in our region going to school reduces the opportunity for indoctrination in place of education.

The success of our neighbours is good for us. “Countries like Thailand and South Korea which were once aid recipients are now among Australia’s 10 largest trading partners.”1

The danger of losing AusAID is, of course, the danger of losing dedicated staff with specialist expertise and contacts in developing countries, but it’s also the danger of a loss of focus and quality in our aid program.

The Review of Aid Effectiveness set out important future directions and I fear a number of recommendations will not be delivered.

These recommendations include a higher share of total Government aid spend to be directed through NGOs.

Our internationally commended approach in disability-inclusive development, (which has led, for example, to schools built in Indonesia with ramps and accessible bathrooms) is under threat.

The centrality of gender equality to our approach to aid is also under threat.

Kofi Annan said:

“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition, promote health -- including the prevention of HIV/AIDS -- and increase the chances of education for the next generation.”

In recent years our aid program has recognised and responded to gender equity as a precondition for both human rights and economic development.

We’ve helped increase the number of girls going to school, we’ve helped women leave behind extreme poverty with microfinance, we’ve increased the number of women who give birth safely, we’ve supported efforts to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, we’ve supported increased political representation of women, and included women in decision making and peace building exercises.

On coming to government we first abolished the Harradine amendment which prohibited Australian aid money going to organisations which delivered family planning services. Most recently we doubled aid funding for family planning services.

Let me say this very clearly – I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries.

It is good for mothers and their babies for women to have the ability to have their first child later, and for mothers to have the ability to space their family. It is vital for mothers and babies to increase attended births and offer proper post natal care.

I also acknowledge the critical role your organisations play in advocating for those living in poverty in our region and across the globe.  I see this as part of your core business.

Labor will do everything we can to protect and strengthen your voices on international development matters, and more broadly.

Australia is at a crossroads when it comes to international development policy.

I believe Australians are generous people who see they have a responsibility to the world.

They want assurances, though, that their tax dollars and any personal donations they make are well and wisely spent, and making a real difference.

I believe Australian aid has been meeting that test, and we must make sure it continues to do so.

I know you share that commitment and I’ll look forward to working with you to ensure that happens.

ENDS

31 OCTOBER 2013

CANBERRA

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