Julie Bishop, Friday 15 June 2012
Good morning everybody. I acknowledge the Hon Fred Chaney, the students from MLC and the other guests who are here to support this important event.I am delighted to have the opportunity to open the GROW Photographic Exhibition on behalf of Make Poverty History in support of the Millennium Development Goals.
Listening to Gertruida and Roseline reminds us all of the enormous challenges that people and women in particular face in developing countries and developed countries around the world.As I was listening to them speak about their personal experiences I was reminded of a number international reports that I have read that show that investment in gender equality yields the highest returns of all development investment. Report after report, survey after survey indicates that absolute truth that investment in gender equality yields the highest returns of all the development investment we can make.
Providing women in particular with equal access to agricultural resources, for example, will have a huge impact on global poverty and hunger.I read one British development report out of the UK that showed that by providing the woman of Africa with equal access to agricultural resources Africa could increase its total agricultural output by over 20 per cent. That is an enormous figure just by giving women that opportunity to access agricultural resources. In my role as the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade I have been privileged to have the opportunity to visit countries in our region, the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific, and see the impact that Australian aid and overseas development assistance through AusAID, through a number of NGOs, through private and public sector organisations, the big impact that it is having on individuals and communities. I have been deeply impressed by the number of initiatives relating directly to economic development. Economic development is vital to ensure that some of our neighbours, countries in our region will be able to provide for their people, for their citizens and to abate the hunger, the poverty, the challenges that they face on a daily basis.
I was in Samoa recently and I visited an Australian funded technical college where young Samoans were learning catering and hospitality skills because there is a burgeoning tourism market in Samoa, yet the local people didn’t have the skills to capitalise on it and Australia had set up a training school to allow them to do so.In the Solomon Islands I visited a training centre where women are learning to use sewing machines to set up a clothing manufacturing system out of the Solomon Islands.In Papua New Guinea I visited the Australia Pacific Technical College that was set up in 2007 to provide opportunities for young Pacific Islanders, young people from Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the region, with a chance to obtain Australian level trade qualifications in engineering, in construction, and they will have the opportunity to work in some of the mining and resource projects which are taking place in nations to our north.
I also suggest it will give them an opportunity to take part in some of the massive projects that are occurring in Western Australia and in Queensland – they will have Australian level qualifications taught by Australian teachers and well qualified people.I also have been delighted to visit an oil and spice processing business in Port Moresby. Given an Australian Government grant they were able to acquire the most extraordinary piece of machinery from India which processes all manner of spices or coco beans or vanilla beans and turn them into products for sale – in gourmet food shops in Sydney no less!
This little business is now supporting over 100 families who provide the produce from their plots of land around Port Moresby.Economic development is vital. However I have also been disturbed by the lack of progress in a number of areas that are subject of our Millennium Development Goals, particularly maternal and child health.In Papua New Guinea again I was deeply disturbed by a visit to the Port Moresby General Hospital that I undertook with Dame Carol Kidu, who is the only female Member of Parliament in the PNG Parliament.They have an opportunity to change that as there is an election coming up shortly and I am hoping that a number of women will stand for election in the PNG national election.But the Port Moresby General Hospital provides rudimentary health care at best and the maternity wing of the hospital would I suspect shock you.
The conditions in which women are having children, having their babies in the major teaching hospital in Port Moresby – our closest neighbour, the largest recipient of Australia’s aid – was deeply concerning.Infant mortality in PNG is still at unacceptably low levels. I also visited a community health centre up in the Southern Highlands and the number of women who died in child birth in Papua New Guinea is utterly unacceptable. So there is much more that we still have to do, much more that we can as a country do to ensure that our aid and our development assistance is targeted and focussed, is well managed, it is effective, we cut out waste, we cut out duplication, we cut out mismanagement and ensure that every dollar that is provided by government and on behalf of the taxpayers is money that contributes to the betterment of communities in our region.
As Paddy pointed out there was a bipartisan commitment to increasing Australia’s aid budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2015, that commitment started as far back as the Howard government, taken up by the Labor government. But in the last budget the government has reneged on its commitment by 2015 and they’ve put out another timeframe. We remain committed to 0.5 per cent of Australia’s gross national income; we believe that Australia’s gross national income will continue to increase so in dollar terms the aid budget will increase.
As far as the timing is concerned there will be one more budget – I am assuming that the electoral cycle runs the three year cycle this time and there will be another budget – so that in May next year we will be in a position to ascertain how we will be able to set out a timetable to reach that commitment.It is not so much whether it is going to be 0.5 or 0.7 it is that every single dollar we provide in our budget hits its target to make a difference to the lives of individuals. Of course to have a target is a very good thing, and as I say if our gross national income continues to grow the dollars will continue to increase. In fact to go from where we are today to 0.5 per cent by 2015 means almost a doubling of the aid budget from about $4.5 billion to $9 billion. I question whether AusAID currently has the capacity and the resources to be able to do that effectively. I called for an independent inquiry into our aid budget and I must say former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd agreed with that and held an inquiry into the effectiveness of our aid budget.
There was very important recommendation that came out of that report and that was to put in place a series of key performance indicators to ensure that our aid budget was achieving what we intended. That hasn’t yet been done but I certainly commit to putting that initiative, that recommendation into place should I be privileged to be in charge of the foreign aid budget sometime in the future. I want to acknowledge the work that has been done by every one of the organisations and entities that make up the Make Poverty History coalition. It is an extraordinary global movement and it has already made tremendous impact on the lives of people in developing countries, but as you would all agree there is so much more that we must all do.
I am delighted that Roseline and Gertruida could be here to share their passion, their emotion and their stories with us. It just encourages us all to more to ensure that we can make poverty history.Our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals must not waiver. We must remain committed to those goals for until we can say our job is done all of us must remain focus on the task. I now have great pleasure in declaring open the GROW Photographic Exhibition for Make Poverty History.