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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
Ms De Lacy
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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Tuesday, 2 June 2009)
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Australian Passport Office
Mr R Rowe
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
Ms De Lacy
Senator IAN MACDONALD
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Australian Passport Office
- FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO
Content WindowFOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 02/06/2009 - FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PORTFOLIO - Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
CHAIR —I welcome to the table Mr Bruce Davis, Director General, and officers from AusAID. The committee will now examine the budget estimates for AusAID.
Senator PAYNE —I will take you to the table Composition of Australian ODA on page 16 of the blue book. It seems to me that in the 2008-09 budget the out years were quite specifically included in the table. We had four years of forward estimates on ODA to 2011-12, yet this year in that table and in other tables reflecting the same figures the same structure is not provided. Can you indicate why that is the case? I can see what is listed in the text, but can you indicate why that is the case? That would seem unusual.
Mr Dawson —The composition and format of the tables is almost identical to last year’s budget paper and to the budget papers of previous years. Perhaps I need to know which areas you believe are different.
Senator PAYNE —Except for the note under the table in relation to ODA levels across to 2012-13, isn’t it usually the case that the official tables themselves include an estimate across the out years of expected ODA levels? Perhaps I am misreading it. I am happy to be corrected, but it just seemed unusual to me to express it in the way it is in these documents.
Mr Dawson —I think table 1 is the same format as in previous years, but I think elsewhere in other budget documentation there is a break-up of estimates over the years of the forward estimates period.
Senator PAYNE —If you point me to that, then that is fine, we will just deal with that in the normal way. You want to take me to the PBS?
Mr Dawson —It is in the PBS, but it is also in Budget Paper No. 1. There is a division in table 4.1 of Budget Paper No. 1 of projections across the forward estimates.
Senator PAYNE —The amounts which the then opposition, now the government, committed to of $4 billion by 2010—I believe that was the commitment made by the now parliamentary secretary in his pre-election remarks—are figures that we still expect to achieve, are they?
Mr Dawson —I think the amounts that will be achieved in subsequent years obviously depend upon the rate of growth of the economy.
Senator PAYNE —That is a very interesting interpretation of what I think was described by Mr McMullan as a rock-solid $4 billion commitment.
Mr Davis —The main commitment has been around reaching an ODA/GNI ratio rather than a dollar figure.
Senator PAYNE —Unfortunately there is a dollar figure on the table. There was previously a dollar figure put on the table by the parliamentary secretary. It was called ‘rock-solid’ at the time, I think, which is why I am asking these questions. But you cannot tell me—
CHAIR —I am a bit confused. I thought the commitment of the government was to move over time to 0.5 per cent—
Mr Davis —To 0.5 ODA/GNI by 2015.
Senator PAYNE —As I understand it, when Mr McMullan addressed, I think, an ACFID forum, he indicated a rock-solid commitment of $4 billion by 2010. It was an ACFID CEO forum, I think. Are you not familiar with that commitment, Mr Davis?
Mr Davis —As I said, the key commitment has always been expressed by the government in terms of ODA/GNI ratio rather than a dollar figure.
Senator PAYNE —Let me get you that quote so that we will both have it. We will come back to it. I have some questions around the development of the policy statement. I am particularly interested in the aspect of the statement about responding to the global recession in the first instance, and there is a reference in the first response part of the statement referring to a global economic crisis task force established in AusAID. Who comprises the task force?
Mr Davis —The task force is led by an assistant director-general, Jacqui De Lacy, and comprises a small number of staff dedicated within that task force but also includes a larger cross-section of people from the agency—for example, from our economics area—and representation as required from our various geographic branches. There is a core group—engaged full-time as members of the task force—looking at issues around the global recession and then an extended group who are brought in to work on particular aspects of our response to the crisis.
Senator PAYNE —What would be the nature of those particular aspects of AusAID’s response to the crisis?
Mr Davis —This covers many different areas of response. Clearly, a major area of response is the engagement that we have at an individual country and regional basis and looking at where our country and regional programs are heading and where there needs to be some variations to existing program priorities and the like, so that is one big area of work. I can get Mr Dawson and Mr Moore, in particular, to comment more about those as to the two major geographic areas of engagement. Beyond that, clearly a lot of the priorities identified for additional funding in this and latter years within the budget—whether it be food security, whether it be support for infrastructure or whatever—relate as well to looking at new ways to engage to make a meaningful response to the crisis. Clearly, there is also a significant amount of engagement as part of a whole-of-government response as well as a broader Australian international response to crisis issues, whether it be as a participant in discussions around G20 or whatever. So there are global areas of engagement, there are very specific program areas of engagement and there are new areas of program development that are in large measure reflected in the 2009-10 budget. If you would wish, perhaps I could get an update on country and geographic engagement, which clearly is a big bit of our core business, from relevant DDGs.
Senator PAYNE —Before we do that, I will ask you when the task force was set up.
Mr Davis —It would have been about two to three months ago.
Senator PAYNE —If you do not know now, that is fine, but can you identify that more precisely for us on notice?
Mr Davis —Sure.
Senator PAYNE —Has it required you to take the staff who are full-time members of the task force from their regular duties?
Mr Davis —In part. We have had a couple of people taken from other areas of work, including one from my own office, to work full-time on this. In other cases it has been possible to do a mix and match between working there and continuing to engage on some of the other broader but related issues—for example, food security.
Senator PAYNE —It certainly says that in here and I think you made a reference to that in the document. Can you explain how the task force fits into the broader whole-of-government efforts with regard to the global economic situation?
Mr Davis —It does this in a number of ways. We participate as a member of various whole-of-government groups—for example, the International Economic Policy Group. In other cases we lead work that is being done on specific aspects of response. For example, in terms of the Pacific, AusAID leads a group looking at that response so it is a range of responses.
Senator PAYNE —I think you said Mr Dawson and Mr Moore could give me some more specific information. What I would really like to know is: what identified partner government needs have been discovered, if you like, by the taskforce—specifically, what identified partner government needs arising from the recession have been identified?
Mr Dawson —In the Pacific the drivers of poor and negative growth that we talked about at the last estimates hearing are still very much the ones to watch—around tourism, remittances, commodity, exports, fisheries, logging, mining, et cetera and income from national trust funds. These continue to be impacted in different ways country by country. So, in looking at a response to the impact of the crisis across the region, it is important that we continue to make sure that that is well grounded in country circumstances and good dialogue with individual country partners. That is going on all the time because we have, obviously, our posted officers in those countries and we have local dialogue processes, in some cases involving other donors where they are represented in country, and otherwise through headquarters and other means. It is an approach to the region which is highly consultative with our other key donor partners, particularly New Zealand, but also the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Since we last spoke there has not been what you would call a dramatic change in circumstances which has translated through to urgent requests for assistance from any of our country partners, but we are beginning to see signs in different areas that obviously will be important to keep watching and to react to sensibly with the agreement of country partners and other donors.
In the Solomon Islands, for example, it is clear that logging revenues have fallen quite substantially because of reduced demand and therefore reduced exports of logs. That impacts directly upon the Solomon Islands economy and certainly on its reserves. We have had discussions in the Solomon Islands about means of shoring up the reserves position. The government informally approached owners to ask them if they would channel funds that they were not already channelling through the central bank if there was a way to increase local payments and interest in local projects which could generate local labour impacts. The Solomon Islands government at the same time has undertaken a range of measures associated with the management of its own budget. It has put a freeze on recurrent expenditure. It has frozen new hiring to the public service. It has implemented a range of revenue measures to raise extra revenue itself.
In the Solomons we have a dialogue which is ongoing with the government about how it is managing the impacts of the crisis, and we are looking for all sensible ways in which we can redirect and reprioritise our existing funding to put, for example, more funds into local labour generation activities. We have an existing program of road maintenance. We are looking to increase the level of our resourcing for that from within our existing program. We are also in discussion with a range of other donors about some possible form of budget support that might be linked to a reform program from the government. These are still at a relatively early stage, but certainly we are reprioritising, particularly road maintenance assistance in the Solomon Islands.
Senator PAYNE —Mr Dawson, before you go on, could I ask you whether that means—and I will come to the PPDs later—specific changes to the partnership for development with the Solomon Islands?
Mr Dawson —No, I do not think it does mean a specific change at the moment. These discussions, particularly the discussions with other donors, around the Solomon Island government’s management of their expenditure, revenue et cetera, fit in very comfortably underneath the partnership for development, particularly the outcome that is related to economic management.
Senator PAYNE —I think you had said previously that there may need to be some flexibility around the partnerships in terms of the effects of the economic crisis. I think we had this discussion before.
Mr Dawson —That is correct.
Senator PAYNE —In this case you do not think there will need to be?
Mr Dawson —I think it is a question of showing flexibility as we continue to develop those detailed schedules to the partnership.
Senator PAYNE —I did not mean to interrupt. I just wanted to check on that.
Mr Dawson —In terms of other countries, I think we mentioned previously that we had an approach from Tuvalu associated with budget support funding. That set of discussions around the reforms to their own budgetary management is something that is ongoing. We are still in a position to provide some additional support, but the commitments and the actions on the part of the Tuvalu government that we identified before are still in the process of discussions with the government about their taking actions on those issues.
In the case of Tonga, I think I mentioned before that we were expecting some discussions again around local labour generation associated with the change to their contracting arrangements for road maintenance activity. That was certainly discussed during partnerships discussions that we had earlier this year and remains an option that we are talking with the government and with other donor partners—the World Bank and ADB—about.
In Samoa, again there have been informal indications that the government would like to discuss the possibility of some relief from school fees, and that is another area that clearly sits underneath the partnership for development and we feel that we can deal with that adequately within the context of the partnership.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. Mr Moore, in terms of your area and specific needs of the partner governments, can you indicate similarly to Mr Dawson?
Mr Moore —Certainly. I would firstly note that the way in which the crisis has been transmitted to Asian countries is principally through a collapse in export volumes and prices being exacerbated, of course, by some very big changes in international capital flows. In the medium term, the multilateral development institutions are mobilising finance in order to try to address the second of those two, and Australia has joined with other countries to support a 200 per cent capital increase for the Asian Development Bank with the idea of mobilising large amounts of additional finance. Clearly the collapse in export volumes is highly problematic for those countries that are most integrated into the international economy. It is expected that exports will decline by about nine per cent during 2009 and that has to be set against export growth averaging about 16 per cent since 2004, so it is a very dramatic shift in fortunes.
Nevertheless, growth in East Asia is expected to be about just over five per cent this year and, in South Asia, a little over four per cent. Globally, these are very respectable rates of growth but, because they are much less than these economies have been used to, there are major adjustment issues for them, particularly in continuing to generate jobs for the large numbers of young people who require them.
We are seeing some significant adjustments and job losses, particularly in the export industries. These are having a major effect on urban centres in particular, although that is having a flow-on consequence in terms of displacing people who, in many cases, are returning to rural areas and putting a strain on local coping mechanisms.
There are three large areas of response that we have endeavoured to make, through reviewing our programs, talking to our partner countries and working with others in the international community. We are looking to help countries re-establish growth, because clearly that is the best way for them to generate jobs and to reduce poverty. Another major area we are also working on is ensuring that basic services do not get cut which, unfortunately, in the past has been a problem, such as the reduction in expenditure on education and health services by governments whose revenues are under stress but also the individual pressure on communities which results in children being taken out of school and families being unable to afford health treatment. The third area is directly protecting the vulnerable and seeking to generate employment and income-earning opportunities.
Perhaps I can give you a few examples at a country level. For example, in Cambodia—which we talked about last time, which has been very hard hit because of its narrow economic base dependent on garment manufacturing, on construction and on tourism, all of which have been affected very badly—our programs are centred on rural development. Recently, in Phnom Penh, we had a dialogue with the government that I led, where we agreed that we would fast track irrigation development, which is not only of direct benefit to farmers but also labour intensive, so that was one of the very practical ways in which we could assist them.
Likewise in the Philippines, we are embarking on a major provincial roads management project, and we have worked with our partners to ensure that there is a very high use of labour on road maintenance, and this will have a stimulatory effect on local economies. In terms of supporting the delivery of basic services, again in the Philippines, we are expanding our assistance in the health sector and, in particular, we are targeting maternal and child health and trying to extend access to family planning which, again, has been an area traditionally which has been squeezed out in times of economic difficulty. In Cambodia, we are also ramping up in the health sector and tackling very, very high rates of maternal and child mortality.
In terms of protecting the vulnerable, in our biggest program in Indonesia, we have got more closely involved with the national program, the Indonesian National Program for Community Empowerment. This aims to provide community-driven development spending across the whole archipelago. It is currently in about 60,000 villages, hopefully extending to 80,000 by about 2010. The Indonesian government itself aims, by 2010, to put about $US1.7 billion into that program.
To date, we have been a small player. We have worked on some of the systems to make sure that these grants get right down to the village level, but we are also looking at putting more financing through these means, because we are confident that the assistance is having a very direct impact on people’s welfare at the grassroots.
Throughout all of these activities, we have also devoted discretionary resources that we have had in our programs to improving monitoring of both our own programs and those of country partners and regional groupings such as ASEAN. For example, we have donated $1 million to a program of assistance with the World Bank, helping the ASEAN secretariat to keep track of what is happening in the region and to develop options for ASEAN members for the best sorts of responses.
Senator PAYNE —Thanks, Mr Moore. Mr Davis, I have two other questions in relation to this area of the statement. How would you characterise the degree of urgency that is attached to the work of the task force and the sorts of work that Mr Dawson and Mr Moore have talked about? I do not imagine it is particularly simple to manage this process between Australia and partner countries, but, given the severity of the impact of the economic crisis in a number of these countries, I am interested in what degree of urgency AusAID is attaching to its work.
Mr Davis —Senator, AusAID is certainly attaching a lot of urgency to this. While we might have a central task force, this has been a key part of the work of all parts of the agency. We have done a lot of work in identifying, through our posts, particularly in the Asia-Pacific areas, where we should engaged or where we should make variations to our existing programs and priorities. That has been quite a comprehensive approach, which has involved all parts of the agency. So it is an issue that we are treating with a great deal of urgency and as a major priority in ensuring that what we are actually engaged in is delivering those things that are most important at this time for individual countries.
I guess at some stage we will talk more about the food security measure in this year’s budget. There is a lot of evidence and a lot of examples in that, which we can go in to, which show areas in which there is now a much stronger emphasis on meeting those particular needs of our partner countries, right down to the social protection level.
Senator PAYNE —For my part, I think one of the most devastating statistics or headlines to come out of recent discussion in relation to the economic crisis is the World Bank statistic which referred to the potential for an increase of between 200,000 and 400,000 infant deaths per annum, if the current recession persists. If I were a newspaper editor, that would be the one matter I would have on the front page most days at the moment. There is reference made in the minister’s statement to that. I am interested in what engagement there is with our partner countries on that particular aspect, which I regard as beyond urgent, to which not a great deal of public attention has been paid, as far as I can ascertain, in the to and fro of commentary. Mr Moore referred to a number of programs in countries in his area of responsibility, but it just seems to me that some emphasis on that is a very important part of our response as an advantaged developed nation.
Mr Proctor —As an overall response to that figure, you are quite right that the World Bank did make that projection between 2009 and 2015 if the crisis persists, which is a very large figure. Obviously, it is driven by a number of things. It is partly increasing poverty leading to lower nutrition, as well as lower direct health services, of course. Also there will indirect effects on the mothers, on women, because of a loss of jobs, greater stress, withdrawal of girls from education et cetera. So all these factors will come into it.
I cannot talk to individual country programs, but I would just point out that there is a very large increase in the amounts of money going to health spending in the coming budget for the next financial year, most of which is, of course, applied through country programs. The government also has already underway a number of endeavours to improve health programming with other donors, particularly through the International Health Partnerships arrangement that is aiming to streamline health and coordinate donor inputs better.
Senator PAYNE —In specific countries, Mr Dawson, in the Pacific, any engagement on these issues with Australia?
Mr Dawson —A very strong engagement. As part of our dialogue with all countries, we are talking about their own capacity to maintain public sector expenditure in priority areas, particularly in basic health and basic education. It is undoubtedly true that in many countries in the immediate region there are structural weaknesses in budget and there is considerable leakage of resources from government’s own budget through, for example, inefficient state-owned enterprises et cetera. Part of our dialogue with countries is around what we can do to help improve the efficiency of public sector expenditure and a strong urging at all times, and offers of assistance to help, to make sure that budgetary allocations for basic education, for basic health and particularly for maternal and child health are maintained through country budgets. That sort of dialogue and the practical assistance we can provide in that area is one of the most useful ways we can continue to raise the profile of this issue.
Senator PAYNE —In the section of the statement in relation to priorities for Australia’s development assistance, there is, as you right predicted, Mr Davis, a reference to food security budget initiative. We have had some discussions with Mr Core, of ACIAR, about aspects of that. The budget papers record an investment over four years of just over $464 million in this area, and the text in the ministerial statement says:
Consistent with Australia’s increased attention to development needs in Africa, support for increased agricultural productivity and social protection programs in Africa will be a focus of increased of Australian assistance.
Can you indicate specifically where in Africa those programs will be located?
Ms De Lacy —I am Assistant Director General of the Sustainable Development Group.
Senator PAYNE —That is when you are not running the task force, Ms De Lacy.
Ms De Lacy —That is right. You have got a good memory. I have got two titles, I am also the global recession coordinator in AusAID.
Senator PAYNE —Hopefully the response coordinator! I hope you are not coordinating the global recession; it’s going really well!
Ms De Lacy —Yes. I would not want that on my CV. In terms of your question about the details of the food security program in Africa, as part of that $464 million, the government has set aside $100 million over four years to deal with food security issues within Africa. In 2009-10, it is quite a low amount at the beginning of that—there is only $2.25 million available for food security issues in the 2009-10 budget for Africa—but it will scale up, and there will be $100 million allocated over those four years. As Mr Core was indicating this morning, we strongly anticipate that a proportion of that funding would be used to fund ACIAR’s programs towards food security in Africa, and some of that funding will be used for AusAID managed food security programs in Africa. We are at the stage of designing those programs, so we do not have a lot of detail.
There was the mission that went to Africa that Mr Core talked about with you and there was a report from that mission, which is currently before the government, which really just gave a set of ideas to the government to see if these were the sorts of things that we would like to pursue in relation to food security. Generally, though, I can say they follow the three pillars of the food security measure that are articulated in the budget blue book with a strong focus on agriculture productivity—how can we increase the productivity of crops and livestock in Africa? There is another pillar on how do we improve rural livelihoods by enhancing markets? There we are looking at really enhancing regional agriculture markets and input markets—that is, markets for things like seeds and fertiliser that have an important impact on food productivity in Africa. The third component, which again reflects the three pillars of the food security budget measure, is around social protection. That has only become more important, I think, as we have seen the combined effect of the global recession and food security problems in Africa. Some of that $100 million will be used for assisting African countries in social protection areas. We are currently looking at those ideas. We would hope to have more detail available over the next couple of months, but we are just going through the process of design now.
Senator PAYNE —I have got a map here. Africa is a very big place.
Ms De Lacy —Yes, it is a very big place.
Senator PAYNE —And you just told me you are going to spend $100 million over four years in Africa, yet as far as I can see neither the budget papers, the PBS or the ministerial statement on aid provide any specificity at all, except in relation to Zimbabwe—which I treat as a separate case because we are talking about different circumstances—about where the aid funding to Africa will go. So when we say ‘the Pacific’ you are very careful to identify Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Micronesia, the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau in that list. When I say ‘Africa, South and Central Asia and the Middle East’ you identify Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Africa. You must have some more specificity that you can give the committee, Ms De Lacy or Mr Davis?
Ms De Lacy —I am happy to give you a little bit more. Basically, we are looking primarily—
Senator PAYNE —That is very generous of you. What I am looking for is the names of countries for a start.
Ms De Lacy —If I could answer the question: because obviously Africa is a very big continent—and, as you say, the amount of money, while it is significant, is not very large in the context of the needs and the numbers of countries and the numbers of poor people in Africa—we anticipate that most of that money will go through regional institutions in Africa or regional programs in Africa that are already in existence. So it will not be a series of bilateral programs such as the ones we might do in the Pacific and in East Asia where we have long-established programs with people on the ground able to design and develop very country-specific programs. In Africa, because we are trying to maximise development effectiveness in an environment where we do not have a large presence, we are looking to try and use regional—for example, there is a very strong Africa-wide process to bring coherence to agricultural efforts under the CAADP framework. So we are looking at CAADP regional institutions such as ASARECA, which focuses on East and Central Africa. We are looking at how we might support CORAF, which is focused on West Africa. We are also looking at some Africa-wide initiatives that might be done, for example, through supporting African universities—the title is BASIC; I cannot remember what it stands for exactly. It is an African union initiative to try and strengthen the capacity of agriculture departments at African universities.
Senator PAYNE —Where are they located, those African universities?
Ms De Lacy —It is all African universities.
Senator PAYNE —So every African university is one which Australia intends to support?
Ms De Lacy —No. There is a BASIC program—it is called BASIC, which is working in—
Senator PAYNE —A basic BASIC program, then?
Ms De Lacy —Yes. Its title is B-A-S-I-C. I cannot remember exactly what the words are.
Senator PAYNE —I understand that.
Ms De Lacy —It focuses on strengthening the capacity of all African universities that have agriculture and natural resource departments. We are currently in discussions with BASIC about where Australian investment would best make sense. I cannot be more specific at the moment, but we expect over the coming months to have the level of detail that you are looking for. But I think what is different in the context of Africa compared to our investments in Asia and the Pacific is that we are starting virtually off a zero base. We do not have a longstanding history of engagement that we can build on. So the designs are taking a little bit more time and they need to be done a bit more carefully.
Senator PAYNE —Please, then, can you explain to me how you identified and came to the amount of $100 million over four years.
Ms De Lacy —When the government needed to make allocations, it seemed like a reasonable amount. But that is a process for the government to decide.
Senator PAYNE —Surely they receive advice from AusAID.
Mr Davis —We had a measure that obviously had a finite level of support available. Within that, clearly there were some significant interests for continuing engagement in this area in the Asia-Pacific. It was then a case for government to work through how much beyond the existing priority countries would also be available to meet an interest in building on the government’s interest in greater engagement in Africa as well. It is a judgment about the relativities between regions, taking account of the fact that obviously there are some pretty significant demands in the Asia-Pacific region as well.
Senator PAYNE —I understand that, and the more I read the budget papers the keener I am to know where this expenditure is going. For example, in the text attached to table 5, Assistance to Africa in 2009-10, the first heading is ‘Assistance to Africa will support Africa’s achievement of the MDGs’. There would not be a single person, I would have thought, who would be quibbling with that particular focus. Then it goes on to say ‘through an enhanced development program of assistance in selected countries and sectors’. All I want to know is what the selected countries are.
Mr Davis —The response will be a mix of support in some elements of the program for engagement at the country level and in other cases support, as Ms De Lacy indicated, through regional frameworks. Clearly one issue that Australia is keen to pursue is that we add value. We do not get into individual small activity if that is going to crowd already significant numbers of donors in a sector in a particular country. There are times when it will make more sense to do things through a regional frame.
There will be other instances where, building on some existing engagements and opportunities, we can do more at the country level. For example, in maternal and child health, doing more through support for the fistula hospital in Ethiopia is going to be a pretty obvious starting point for us to work on within that country. So there will be specific country-led engagements like that. There will be others where, to ensure that we add value and we are able to draw on some specific Australian expertise—for example, in agriculture on dry land farming—we will do it with a regional framework rather than a country framework.
Senator PAYNE —What time frame are we looking at to have some more detail around the spending in this area?
Mr Davis —It will unfold during the next six months or so. A lot of the funding for food security is not, as indicated in terms of food security, going to be available during 2009-10. There will be some areas where that is quicker. For example, the build-up in the number of scholarships from 100 to 200 during the course of 2009-10 will be an area where we could now give you the anticipated list of countries to where those scholarships will be provided. It will unfold in that sense. It will not be at the same speed in each sector. In broad terms, it will unfold within the next six months.
Senator PAYNE —Is it the same answer if I ask you a question in relation to the contributions for humanitarian assistance? The next dot point in that table, which refers to linking humanitarian aid to Africa to broader development efforts, refers specifically to the area of sub-Saharan Africa. Which countries in sub-Saharan Africa would be recipients of our support in that regard?
Mr Davis —Of all sectors or themes, humanitarian support is always going to be the one that is hardest to predict.
Senator PAYNE —I would agree with you, Mr Davis, except that the text here refers to protracted humanitarian needs, disaster risk reduction and linking to broader development efforts to achieve long-term gains and meeting the MDGs. I am not talking about disaster by disaster or emergency by emergency, nor is this text. These are long-term engagements as I read it—or I may be completely misunderstanding the text. Which particular countries in sub-Saharan Africa would be specifically included in that?
Mr Isbister —The figure you are looking at particularly relates to crises such as Zimbabwe, where there is clearly not only an ongoing protracted humanitarian crisis but also a window of opportunity to look at what support can be provided to assist the country to get its basic services back up and running for the people in Zimbabwe.
Senator PAYNE —I understood Zimbabwe to be another dot point.
Mr Isbister —It is, but there is a link. In a place like Zimbabwe you have a humanitarian crisis and, one would hope, an opportunity to move into more developmental initiatives. That is the linkage that this humanitarian funding is also to provide. Another example is the Democratic Republic of Congo—
Senator PAYNE —Thank you.
Mr Isbister —where there is a significant humanitarian crisis. It is a situation which is, unfortunately, unlikely to resolve itself quickly, and this gives us the flexibility and capacity into the year to look at targeted assistance and support into an area like that.
Senator PAYNE —What is our current contribution into the DRC?
Mr Isbister —We made a commitment in December of $5 million.
Senator PAYNE —How much would you see that increasing by in this increase in allocation to Africa?
Mr Isbister —Predicting exactly what is going to unfold in the DRC is a difficult question to answer. One would think that it would be approximately around that figure again this year and, obviously, if the situation needed it and based on advice, it may exceed that.
Senator PAYNE —I will put some further questions on notice in relation to Africa. It is worth noting that in estimates in February, in reference to a media release by the minister in September last year, questions were asked in relation to increased support for Africa, in particular in relation to AusAid’s work in this area both in relation to the ‘new partnership’ and separately in relation to the increase in ODA contributions. I must say, I did expect to see more detail and specificity in the budget papers given that this is a—to use a tired phrase—much vaunted commitment of this government.
Can we keep going in relation to the priorities? There is a reference there on page 21 to microfinance and financial services, which indicates that, from 2009-10, Australia will facilitate economic growth through expanded support for microfinance activities in both urban and rural areas. It may be that I have been unable to identify the dollar value attached to this in the budget papers—and I am very happy to be corrected—but I cannot find it and if someone could point me to the dollar value of the expanded support for microfinance activities I would be very grateful.
Ms De Lacy —There is no dollar figure, but the government is committed to increasing its expenditure on microfinance, so, over the last probably five years, we have been on average spending about $10 million a year on microfinance. We now have a clear target from the minister to try and increase that expenditure to around $20 million over the next few years.
Senator PAYNE —Where can I read about that?
Ms De Lacy —I do not think we have issued a statement about that.
Senator PAYNE —That makes it hard for me and the general public to understand the commitment to microfinance then.
Ms De Lacy —We are committed to trying to increase it. We have an objective of trying to get to double the current expenditure by about 2013.
Senator PAYNE —So we write about it in the budget papers and we flag it as expanded support and new assistance increasingly supporting activities in a range of countries but we do not indicate what we are spending?
Ms De Lacy —I can give you some estimates now. One of the challenges—
Senator PAYNE —Ms De Lacy, Mr Davis, with respect, we the committee, members of the Senate, need to be able to work with, preferably, numbers to some degree. I am not the most numerate person in this building by any stretch of the imagination, but I knew I was not able to find those amounts. To tell us in ministerial statements that we are expanding support and giving new assistance and then not provide that information to the parliament for it to appropriately examine through the estimates process does put us, the committee, in an invidious position. Is there any formal information you can give the committee in relation to this expenditure?
Ms De Lacy —I know there have been a series of questions on notice about microfinance expenditure and, over the years, we have been consistently providing information on estimated expenditure on microfinance through those questions on notice. It is not in the budget blue book, it is not a specific budget measure and there is not a target around the 2009-10 budget, so most of the scaling-up in microfinance, or financial inclusion more generally, is being done through a whole series of decisions being taken by individual country programs. We are happy to continue to answer questions about the level of microfinance expenditure that we have through these processes.
Senator PAYNE —I am not sure that you actually are, Ms De Lacy. Do you want me to read back to you the responses that you have been giving to questions on notice on microfinance? There was this one: ‘No commitments were made at the Asia-Pacific microcredit summit in Bali in July 2008. That summit, however, was a useful forum for discussions of issues relating to microfinance, including industry trends et cetera.’ And there was this one: ‘Does AusAID envisage an increase in funding for microfinance programs in coming budgets?’ Answer: ‘The parliamentary secretary has indicated that an increase in funding for microfinance programs is being considered by government and is subject to budgetary outcomes,’ which made me assume that ‘subject to budgetary outcomes’ meant that I could look at the budget and work out what the spending was. You said in your remarks then—and I do not wish to misquote you if I am incorrect—that it was not in the blue book. I assume you were talking about this book?
Ms De Lacy —Sorry, yes.
Senator PAYNE —Well, the whole point is that it is in the blue book: a whole paragraph headed ‘Microfinance and financial services’, with no dollar value attached anywhere in the budget to the spending, which, in my view, is most unhelpful to those people in the community—and there are a lot of them—who are very interested in Australia’s engagement in microfinance issues.
Can I go on to the education statements in the blue book, Mr Davis, in relation to our 2009-10 commitments to national education systems and to education assistance, and then to scholarships? Given the emphasis placed in other aspects of these documents on achieving the Millennium Development Goals including, fittingly, the reproduction of the goals in diagram 1, I am surprised that when we talk about education assistance there we do not particularly talk about gender—about increasing the number of girls—in relation to MDG2 in particular. Also, in the scholarships section, there is a lack of reference to MDG3 in terms of empowerment and eliminating gender disparity in all levels of education. So, can you answer two questions for me: first, is there any particular emphasis on ensuring an increased number of girls into education systems in the region; secondly, what approach is being taken by government to the participation of women in the scholarship processes here, in Africa and so on?
Mr Davis —I can start then Ms O’Keefe may perhaps want to add something further. There is a strong emphasis in a lot of our programs on support for girls’ education. We clearly understand and have given prominence to the notion that there is nothing more important for longer term development than girls’ education. That is reflected in a number of specific programs in specific countries as well as ensuring that anything we do in terms of broader primary or secondary education opportunities puts equal emphasis on the role of girls.
We have had an objective for a long time for ensuring that scholarships are equally available to boys and girls and in fact in some countries the numbers for girls exceed those of boys. I might get Ms O’Keefe to add to that. It clearly is an area that we have a strong interest in continuing to have as a central element of our engagement. It is something that we have given a lot of emphasis to in terms of our broader education strategy and it is certainly something that plays out as well in scholarships.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. I am very keen to know about the scholarships aspect of it.
Ms O’Keeffe —In terms of the approach to ensuring that the Australian Development Scholarship program does have the appropriate gender balance we have, as Mr Davies has said, a long-standing policy of ensuring 50-50. To achieve 50-50 we simply ensure that if, for example, 80 male candidates are put forward and 40 female candidates are put forward the overarching policy is to reduce the number of male candidates that are actually accepted so we eventually reach the equitable stage. This is not always achieved to the absolute 50-50 but in all cases we do make every effort to achieve that.
The other approach to ensuring gender equity is not just simply a case of numbers. It is also looking at the type of scholarships that we can actually achieve. If you are going to be doing a serious gender analysis for scholarships you have to be conscious of the fact that for many women who come from the countries where we operate the acceptance of a full-time scholarship to spend 2, 3 or more years in Australia is simply out of the question. So, some of our short-term scholarships, particularly through the Australian Leadership Awards - Fellowships, provide women an alternative opportunity to undertake short-term study in Australia that may be more appropriate for them because of their family responsibilities and, in some cases, cultural expectations.
Similarly, we have in the Pacific, where gender issues are particularly acute, the regional scholarship program, which enables women in the Pacific to undertake study at institutions in the Pacific itself. What I am saying is that, to sum up, it is not just simply a case of reaching a magic target. We understand that, while that is always a good goal, there are times when it is just not going to be possible because of certain circumstances, but what is absolutely fundamental and something which guides us at all times in how we ensure women are getting the opportunity for higher studies is examining the way in which the scholarship program is delivered to meet those very real constraints that many women in the developing world have to deal with.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you.
Senator BOSWELL —I want to ask some questions about abortion funding through AusAID. Who should I direct those to?
Senator Stephens —We are all here.
Senator BOSWELL —In his media release on 10 March, Minister Stephen Smith said:
Since the introduction of the Family Planning Guidelines in 1996, there has been a significant decline in funding from the aid program across the range of family planning activities from 0.44% ($6.9m) in 1995-96 to only 0.07% ($2.3m) in 2006/07 …
The Government is committed to reversing this trend …
What percentage of aid funding is to be spent on family planning activities for each year or each of the next four years and what is this in dollars for each year?
Mr Proctor —I cannot give you such precise figures over four years. You will have noted from the minister’s press statement that he made an initial commitment to spend an additional $15 million over four years on family planning. There is also a broader commitment to have a much bigger amount overall on maternal and child health. The government is also increasing its spending on the building up of health systems in general. All of these things will influence the amount that is actually provided in the end to improve access to reproductive health and family planning.
Senator BOSWELL —Thank you. My question is specific to this abortion aid. The minister is committed to upping the ante by $15 million, which will be spent on abortion funding. Is that correct?
Mr Proctor —No, that is not correct.
Senator BOSWELL —Tell me what is correct.
Mr Proctor —The statement was to provide additional assistance to family planning, which in fact will be a broad range of integrated services, including counselling, provision of contraception and family related health issues. What the minister has said is that, unlike under the past guidelines, NGOs and others can counsel on abortion, they can train and it is possible to do terminations, but the point I think I should make—
Senator BOSWELL —NGOs can do abortions—is that what you are saying?
Mr Proctor —The point the minister was making is that the assistance program will support the same range of family planning services that women in developing countries as are supported for women in Australia, subject, of course, to the laws of the individual countries that are being operated within.
Senator BOSWELL —I might have misheard you. In your last statement you said, ‘NGOs could do abortions?’ Is that what you said?
Mr Proctor —As part of integrated health and family planning services, it is possible for them to seek funding for that. I must say to you, though, that the point of the minister’s announcement was that a wider and more comprehensive range of family planning is aimed at reducing abortions in developing countries.
Senator BOSWELL —Thank you, but I am just trying to get to the bottom of that statement, ‘NGOs can do abortions.’ That means they can offer abortions or they physically do the abortions? What does that statement mean?
Mr Proctor —Where NGOs are offering health services in developing countries they are able to, within certain limitations, offer a full suite of services in reproductive health.
Senator BOSWELL —So AusAID could approach someone and offer an abortion?
Mr Proctor —I am sorry—who would approach someone, Senator?
Senator BOSWELL —An NGO, and I would presume an NGO is AusAID. Which other NGOs are there?
Mr Proctor —The NGOs are non-government organisations that receive public funding, a contribution; they are not part of AusAID as such.
Senator BOSWELL —What about Marie Stopes International? Are they an NGO?
Mr Proctor —They are, along with many others, including CARE, World Vision et cetera.
Senator BOSWELL —AusAID funds Marie Stopes International?
Mr Proctor —Marie Stopes does provide some project assistance that we provide funding for, particularly in Myanmar, which is providing increased access to contraception.
Senator BOSWELL —How much of the aid funding to be spent each year over the next four years on family planning activities is to be spent on activities for which funding was prohibited under the family planning guidelines from 1996 to 10 March 2009?
Mr Proctor —I cannot give you a specific answer. The point is that most of the money spent by NGOs is actually on counselling.
Senator BOSWELL —I am asking specific questions. If you cannot answer them, you may be able to take on notice, but I do want an answer.
Mr Proctor —I will take that on notice, but I think it is impossible to predict the precise percentage. The point I was making is that I think there will be a small amount of change but not much.
Senator BOSWELL —I will have to come back to that. In which countries will such activities be funded? How much will be expended on such activities in each of these countries?
Mr Proctor —There is a range of countries that Australian NGOs work in. Depending on the size, the NGOs come under different funding arrangements.
Senator BOSWELL —Can you nominate them, please?
Mr Proctor —Particularly the Asia-Pacific.
Senator BOSWELL —Can you tell me who they are, please?
Mr Proctor —I am sorry—which NGOs?
Senator BOSWELL —Which countries.
Mr Proctor —The larger NGOs operate across the Pacific and East Asia and—
Senator BOSWELL —Can you tell me the countries, please? Is it Burma, Tuvalu, Tokelau, New Zealand, East Timor? Which countries?
Mr Proctor —Certainly all those but New Zealand. NGOs operate in the countries they choose to operate in. They will seek funding from the Australian government at various levels because, as you will recall, most of the money comes from public donations. Where we would assist NGOs directly would be where we have objectives to assist countries. They are all the developing countries of the South Pacific—the francophone ones particularly.
Senator BOSWELL —What about East Timor?
Mr Proctor —Certainly. Most of the countries of East Asia except, of course, the rich ones—Singapore, Malaysia—and they have moved out of Thailand.
Senator BOSWELL —How can you offer abortion funding in East Timor? I would imagine it would be illegal.
Mr Proctor —No-one would offer abortion funding in East Timor. It is very strictly controlled by the law. There are only a small number of countries in the region where the abortion is in fact legal.
Senator BOSWELL —Can you nominate those countries, please, where abortion is legal?
Mr Proctor —Yes. Can I just say, Senator: the grant processes for NGOs, which you may want to hear about in more detail, really do not allow us to make specific projections about which countries will receive funding. The countries that do allow abortion in this region—
Senator BOSWELL —Just before you go there, what did you just say—you cannot—
Mr Proctor —Coming back to your earlier point, Senator, it is not possible to give precise figures on future years because the grant processes do not specify necessarily particular countries especially with bigger NGOs who get a block grant for their activities.
Senator BOSWELL —What are you saying: they do not specify where the money is going? Is that what you are saying? You just give them a block grant.
Mr Proctor —Yes, Senator, in a small number of the biggest ones, which have gone through all sorts of assessment processes to that point. I return to your original question. When talking about abortions being legal, it rather depends on the category. Almost every country will allow an abortion to save the life of the mother. The countries where we have programs and without specific restriction are Cambodia, Mongolia, Nepal—some of these clearly have restrictions against sex-selective abortion—Vietnam and China.
Senator BOSWELL —What you are saying is that you do not know or you do not want to know to what countries this abortion funding is going? Is that what you are telling me? You do not know and you do not want to know? You are just giving it out in a block.
Mr Proctor —What I am saying is that different countries have different laws. NGOs that operate inside those countries have to comply with the laws of the countries.
Senator BOSWELL —But surely we must know as a country what we are giving money for. Isn’t that a reasonable proposition that we must know, as a country, that we are giving so much for abortion, so much for water, so much for medicine and so much for health? Or do we just say, ‘Here is a big bundle of money. Spend it the way you want to’?
Mr Proctor —In general we do know sometimes.
Senator BOSWELL —Well then, can you tell me. Do not go around the mulberry bush for the next hour, but can you tell me what it is, please?
Mr Proctor —Those components are not necessarily specified in all our relationships with NGOs. We fund NGOs because they have proven to provide good assistance.
Senator BOSWELL —An NGO comes to you and says, ‘I want some money.’ So you just say, ‘What do you want?’ sign a cheque and give it to them, do you? Or do you ask them what the money is for?
Mr Proctor —There is an annual process and what they can use the money for is quite clear across a range of development activities.
Senator BOSWELL —You must know what your expenditure is on abortion. I am asking you that.
Mr Proctor —Senator, we know what our expenditure is on family planning and reproductive health.
Senator BOSWELL —If you know what your expenditure is, then you must know who you are expending it to.
Mr Proctor —In cases reported at the end of the year, but as I am saying to you, that is a statistical reporting process at the end of the calendar year.
Senator BOSWELL —When will those figures be available?
Mr Proctor —They are aggregated every year and released in a statistical report.
Senator BOSWELL —When is that available?
Mr Proctor —After the end of the financial year. Probably some months after 30 June.
Senator BOSWELL —What measures have been or will be put in place to ensure that any funding for family planning activities comply with the national laws of the relevant nation concerned?
Mr Proctor —That is one of the clear bases on which funding is provided.
Senator BOSWELL —How do you assess that?
Mr Proctor —There is more detailed guidance coming soon on this issue, and clearly from the minister’s statement, that will be one of the key aspects.
Senator BOSWELL —Are we funding abortion now, as of this minute?
Mr Proctor —No, Senator.
Senator BOSWELL —When will we start?
Mr Proctor —When the detailed revised guidelines are issued, then I anticipate that non-government entities will operate on those.
Senator BOSWELL —Have we had many demands for abortion funding?
Mr Proctor —Not to my knowledge nor would I expect to have had them, given the clearly stated policy by Australia not to provide that. Frankly those sorts of requests would not come to us at a donor level.
Senator BOSWELL —What was your last statement? You clearly would not provide them?
Mr Proctor —We have public guidelines that Australia did not provide counselling and other services related to abortion. I was just making the point that countries would not have asked us therefore.
Senator BOSWELL —Well, we have had three months between now and March. Have we had people knocking on our door asking for abortion funding?
Mr Proctor —No, we have not, not to my knowledge.
Senator BOSWELL —Has AusAID been involved in activities aimed at changing the national laws regarding family planning or reproductive health in any country?
Mr Proctor —I am not sure. There are certainly projects—
Senator BOSWELL —That is one thing you have got to be sure of. I asked you a pretty specific question and one you cannot avoid. You cannot say you do not know whether you have aimed at activating, changing the national laws regarding family planning. Everyone on that table would know, yes or no.
Mr Proctor —We have a relationship with the UNFPA, which is the UN agency concerned with population matters in general. I am sure as part of their remit they do recommend appropriate approaches to family planning and other reproductive health services. In some cases, AusAID may well have been doing some activities in conjunction with them. That would be the instance, I would imagine, where this would happen.
Senator BOSWELL —I am asking you again: has AusAID gone out and promoted abortions?
Mr Proctor —No, it certainly has not promoted abortions.
Senator BOSWELL —Family planning of any description?
Mr Proctor —There certainly have been cases of promoting access to family planning.
Senator BOSWELL —Which is shorthand for all provisions, including abortion?
Mr Proctor —Not really. It is promoting access to contraceptive services and related health services for women.
Senator BOSWELL —Including abortion?
Mr Proctor —Not to this point, no. can I refer you again to the statement by the minister that his intention is to reduce the level of abortion that occurs in developing countries.
Senator BOSWELL —Well, you cannot reduce it beyond nothing, and that is what we had before. We were not supplying money for it. Now you cannot reduce it—
Mr Proctor —Can I just explain—
Senator BOSWELL —Yes, I understand where you are coming from.
Mr Proctor —There are huge numbers of illegal abortions in the developing world. A significant percentage can lead to the death or maiming of the mother. That is the figure that the minister is focused upon. Somewhere between 10 and 13 per cent of deaths in developing countries are from botched abortions. So there is a really significant improvement in maternal health figures if you can improve people’s access to the reproductive health services they want in order not to end up in illegal abortions.
Senator BOSWELL —I am still concerned about AusAID taking an active role in promoting what we have never supported before. You are saying, ‘Well, we’re not doing that; we are promoting contraception,’ or something like that.
Mr Proctor —Yes.
Senator BOSWELL —A news report from Manila Bulletin indicated an AusAID representative expressed support for the passage of a reproductive healthcare bill 2008 in the Philippines legislature at a forum held in Pasig City, in the Philippines, on 7 May 2009, sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. Is this the case, and could the text of the remarks made by the AusAID representative to this forum be supplied?
Mr Moore —I am broadly aware of the event you mention and that an AusAID officer, our head of post, was there. We can furnish you with his remarks. I would hark back to your earlier questioning about what role we play in promoting particular policies. I would say that, across the full range of policies in the health area—and other areas, as well—we are involved in dialogue with governments, but it is absolutely critical that governments take the decisions themselves about what policies they want to enact. There should never be instances of Australia or AusAID officials foisting policies on governments that those governments do not want to adopt.
Senator BOSWELL —I am pleased to hear that. Ary Laufer, a spokesman for Marie Stopes International told ABC Radio Australia in an interview on 11 March 2009 that his organisation hopes:
… to provide training for doctors throughout the country—
Papua New Guinea—
… to determine what is a life-threatening situation for women, particularly if they are presenting themselves with an unwanted pregnancy and it may affect mentally or physically the woman who is presenting.
Would AusAID consider funding a program designed to promote a liberal application of Papua New Guinea’s law on application?
Mr Dawson —Can you repeat the question—at least the last part of it?
Senator BOSWELL —Would AusAID consider funding a program designed to promote a liberal application of Papua New Guinea’s law on application?
Mr Dawson —We will only work in accordance with the laws of the country and in accordance with Australian government policy. Whatever is proposed will always be considered against those two criteria.
Senator BOSWELL —In the same interview with Ary Laufer, journalist Lisa Mottram suggested that:
… in countries where abortion is legal, like Vietnam, aid groups funded by the Australian government will quickly be able to begin providing safe abortion, abortion advice and training.
The ABC also recently reported that Vietnam’s gender imbalance concerns Vietnamese officials:
… if the current gender imbalance continues about three million men will have difficulty finding wives by 2030. Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan believes Vietnam should learn the lessons about gender imbalance from China, Japan and South Korea. He has asked people’s committees to raise awareness about the consequences of prenatal gender selection through the mass media. Although Vietnam in 2003 banned foetal sex selection, many doctors tell parents-to-be if they are expecting a boy or girl. Currently in Ho Chi Minh City, there are 113 boys for every 100 girls.
Given the ready availability of abortion in Vietnam and its use in eliminating girl babies, is AusAID intending to fund abortion provisions or training in Vietnam?
Mr Proctor —I am not aware of any such plans. Are you talking about AusAID projects in this regard or are you talking about non-government organisations?
Senator BOSWELL —I am talking about both. Is AusAID intending to fund abortion provision or training in Vietnam through Marie Stopes? Or anyone else, for that matter?
Mr Proctor —I am certainly not aware of any; there are certainly no plans.
Senator BOSWELL —What measures will be in place to ensure that Australian overseas aid is not used to fund sex-selection abortions in Vietnam or any other place?
Mr Proctor —In detail guidance that would be very explicit.
Senator BOSWELL —So if Marie Stopes asked you for some money to fund abortions or whatever for other family planning issues you would specifically say, ‘This is not to be used for sex selection of babies.’ Have you got any criteria and what are they?
Mr Proctor —In many regards gender issues in the aid program clearly have been in place for many years. There would be no occasion under which Australian aid would ever consider providing assistance for such a purpose.
Senator BOSWELL —I know you would not consider it, but what provisions have you got to stop other people that you give money to from considering it? Is there a written agreement with these NGOs?
Mr Proctor —This would be under the guidelines in which the NGOs receive funding.
CHAIR —When will the drafting of the guidelines be concluded?
Mr Proctor —I would imagine very shortly.
CHAIR —I presume when drafting has concluded and signed off by the relevant authorities they will be released for public use?
Mr Davis —After they have been agreed with the minister.
CHAIR —After they have been approved by the minister they will be released and then go forward. Understood—and that is going to be fairly soon?
Senator Stephens —Yes.
Senator BOSWELL —I may have some more questions on notice.
Proceedings suspended from 3.44 pm to 3.59 pm
CHAIR —The committee will come to order and we will continue the examination of budget estimates for AusAID.
Senator BERNARDI —I have some questions on the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility. To whom should I address those?
Mr Proctor —You can address them to me and I might call on expert colleagues as well.
Senator BERNARDI —Australia is a member of the—we will find a most appropriate acronym for this—PPIAF. Is that right?
Mr Proctor —I am not quite sure on that acronym. Mr Robin Davies might be more involved in that.
Mr Davies —Yes, we are a member of PPIAF, which is the acronym you are looking for.
Senator BERNARDI —And we joined in 2007, is that correct?
Mr Davies —That is correct.
Senator BERNARDI —How much money will Australia, through AusAID, be contributing to PPIAF in the 2009-10 financial year and the 2010-11 financial year?
Mr Davies —Our contribution in 2007-08, I believe, was $3 million. I will check that figure in a moment. We do not have allocations to PPIAF for the next two financial years. That $3 million is intended to extend over a number of years. But we will certainly be looking at the possibility of a further contribution through the life of the economic infrastructure facility and, in particular, through the global component of that facility.
Senator BERNARDI —As to that figure of $3 million, looking at the PPIAF annual report for July 2007 to June 2008, it says receipts from Australia are $1.17 million. Where would the remainder of the sum, the $1.83 million, be?
Mr Davies —I am just checking the figure now. The figures I have indicate that our total commitment is $3.29 million over the period 2006-07 to 2008-09—so, over three financial years. I do not have a year-by-year breakdown in front of me, but it may be that that figure is being paid in several tranches and we may have an outstanding tranche to pay under the existing budget measure—the Infrastructure For Growth Initiative.
Senator BERNARDI —Okay. I just want to come back to this. We have paid $3.29 million, subject to the provisos in this.
Mr Davies —We have agreed to pay $3.29 million.
Senator BERNARDI —An agreement to pay that. And you cannot tell me how much is in each year?
Mr Davies —Not at this stage, but I can get that information for you.
Senator BERNARDI —I question then whether we are members in good standing, if we have not made any contributions for a year or two years.
Mr Davies —We certainly are. This is a very typical contribution pattern. Most members will make payments in every second or third financial year, and those payments will be drawn down for specific activities. There is not an annual funding cycle or an annual payment obligation.
Senator BERNARDI —But, in order to be a member, there is an annual minimum contribution to PPIAF?
Mr Davies —It is not an annual minimum, as is my understanding. I would need to check on the detail, but—
Senator BERNARDI —I will help you out here. It says, ‘Membership in the Program Council remains open to eligible organisations contributing a minimum of $250,000 a year to PPIAF’s Core Fund.’
Mr Davies —And we have already paid over $1 million, so that would be spread over the three years.
Senator BERNARDI —But we have given it all in one year? It is like pre-paying our entry, is it?
Mr Davies —Yes, that would discharge our obligations as a member.
Senator BERNARDI —Okay, so it is not necessarily an annual contribution and you can make one lump sum contribution.
Mr Davies —That is correct.
Senator BERNARDI —What does the government hope to achieve by membership of PPIAF?
Mr Davies —Our membership, I believe, was largely funded from the first year of the Infrastructure For Growth Initiative—a budget measure of the previous government. PPIAF is one of a small number of World Bank administered trust funds and facilities supported through that measure. Its particular focus is on catalysing private sector investment in infrastructure and improving policy and regulatory environments for infrastructure financing. Our geographic interests are primarily in East Asia and the Pacific—or at least that was the way in which the original funding agreement was framed—but PPIAF also works on a wider geographic basis and supports a range of studies, policy advisory exercises and program preparation work leading to larger scale investments by the World Bank.
Senator BERNARDI —Could you detail some of the countries in which Australia’s investment is working?
Mr Davies —I think I would need to seek further detail and get that back to you on that. PPIAF works in most of the countries of East Asia—certainly in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos—but I would need to take your question on notice if you would like a lot of detail on activities in individual countries.
Senator BERNARDI —Sure. You might be able to answer this now—do we have any aid going into China through this project?
Mr Davies —I cannot answer that at the moment; I am sorry. It is possible. I do not think any significant amount would be flowing to China through PPIAF, but I would need to check on that.
Senator BERNARDI —If you could; thank you. If any amount is, I would be interested in it. Are you able to detail any of the projects or measures that Australia’s funds have had an active role in supporting over the last year?
Mr Davies —I am not familiar with the detail of this facility. I would need to get that information to you on notice.
Senator BERNARDI —Thank you. I have a more general question regarding economic infrastructure through AusAID. The government has promised $454.2 million over four years, and yet in 2009-10 less than three per cent of this is expected to be drawn down—a sum of $11.9 million. Could you explain how that figure was arrived at in the context of a four-year—
Mr Davies —I think the key point to make is that our infrastructure spending is coming from several budget measures simultaneously, so the level of infrastructure financing in 2009-10 is quite significant at $560 million in total.
Senator BERNARDI —I am interested in AusAID’s, though.
Mr Davies —That is what I am referring to.
Senator BERNARDI —That is not what it says under ‘Overseas Development Assistance—Economic Infrastructure’.
Mr Davies —That is for the economic infrastructure budget measure—
Senator BERNARDI —That is what I am interested in.
Mr Davies —but the point I am making is that that is in addition to substantial spending under the pre-existing Infrastructure for Growth Initiative, which will be $139 million in the 2009-10 budget year; substantial spending under the government’s water and sanitation initiative, which was a budget measure from 2008-09, which will spend $97.4 million in 2009-10; and spending through the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility, for which I do not have the 2009-10 amount in front of me. One of my colleagues may have that amount.
Senator BERNARDI —I appreciate that information—
Mr Proctor —Sorry, Senator—could I just direct you to page 18 in the budget document.
Senator BERNARDI —I do not have the blue book, but—
Mr Proctor —Shown in a graph is the continuing growth in the total amount to infrastructure over the coming year and the—
Senator BERNARDI —I appreciate that information, but my question was specifically about the $454.2 million in the economic infrastructure package. I want to know why $11.9 million of that is drawn down in the first year—it seems like a very small sum.
Mr Davies —Because of the availability of very substantial sums through the range of other measures that I have described. Essentially the new measure will cut in with a thin end as the others, particularly the Infrastructure for Growth Initiative, phase down.
Senator BERNARDI —So this program is replacing the previous programs?
Mr Davies —It is coming in over the top. There is an overlap of two years but, yes, essentially it is adding to—
Senator BERNARDI —That is what I wanted to know. I appreciate that.
Senator PAYNE —Chair, I have almost finished dealing with the areas I wanted to address in the ministerial budget statement on the International Development Assistance Program. Notwithstanding the fact that the officers might not appreciate it, in the interests of balance I do want to note how very important I think the awarding of the five annual Asia-Pacific leadership awards in the name of Greg Urwin is. It is very good to see that recorded in his honour and I was very pleased to see them. I am also interested in the level of support to UNIFEM.
I want to ask a question under the community engagement heading, Mr Davies. There is a reference to the 2009-10 volunteer programs providing further opportunity for adult Australians to contribute to development in partner countries, and we all know the value of the programs that have been undertaken thus far. Can you tell the committee whether there has been any thought given to doing that in reverse, some sort of exchange arrangement from some of our partner countries not just in the scholarship context but also in reverse in the form of an ambassador for development type program?
Mr Davies —Not under our program.
Senator PAYNE —There is one more question on Africa, broadly speaking, which flows from the legal and constitutional estimates hearings last week. There is allocation of $7 million over four years to AUSTRAC to assist African countries in developing effective law and justice frameworks. In questioning in AUSTRAC estimates by one of my colleagues, four countries were specifically named as likely recipients of this program: Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia. Can you tell us whether AusAID will have any involvement in the law and justice capacity building aid projects?
Mr Davies —This is a program under the Attorney-General’s Department and it will be pursued by them, so it will principally be their engagement but as with any such activity which has an aid element to it we will be in ongoing consultation with them about it.
Senator PAYNE —Were you consulted in the development of the initiative?
Mr Davies —It was included in a broader set of whole-of-government interests, so in that sense we were aware of it, but we were not specifically consulted beyond that.
Senator PAYNE —So you were not consulted about the specific countries?
Mr Davies —No.
Mr Dawson —I think that we were asked about the ODA eligibility of it, and we gave a view on that, which was that the program as described appeared to be 100 per cent ODA eligible.
Senator PAYNE —It is interesting that AUSTRAC can name Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia as recipients of this program but I do not have quite so much luck getting specific country names for ODA.
Mr Davies —I can give you the full list of country names for the scholarships, if you want it.
Senator PAYNE —To follow up on a question on notice, in answer to a question about microfinance from February 2009 it was indicated that AusAID expects to release a draft of a microfinance framework later this year for public comment. Can you tell me how far advanced it is and when we can expect to see it?
Ms De Lacy —We have two priorities in relation to microfinance. One is the scaling up, so identifying new opportunities to invest money in well-designed microfinance activities. The other thing which we are doing in parallel to that is the development of a new policy framework which will guide our longer-term investments and explain the priority the government puts on microfinance. We have a very early internal draft we are working with within AusAID at the moment. We would hope to have a version out for comment with, for example, particularly the partner governments in the Pacific and Asia that we would be working with, but also key microfinance institutions both in the region and Australian microfinance organisations. So I cannot be exactly sure, but hopefully by about July we would have a version that we would want to put out for comment. We would then try to seek feedback on that policy document before releasing it as a final document by the end of the year.
Senator PAYNE —What is the objective of the framework?
Ms De Lacy —It would explain the priorities. Obviously it is a very broad area, so it would seek to explain the Australian government’s priorities within the area of financial inclusion.
CHAIR —It is being done through the PPDs? Is the microfinancing initiative and the framework that Ms De Lacy is referring to that is going to come out by the end of the year, for the provision of the capital in due course—the upscaling from $10 million to $20 million—part of the Pacific Partnerships for Development process that is being extensively negotiated through the Pacific countries?
Mr Dawson —It is not currently a specific part of it, but I think we are quite conscious that economic growth issues require us to look at access to financial services in a range of countries and to work with partners on that. It would I think be our intention to return to this issue in subsequent iterations of the partnership, but it so far does not feature prominently I think in any of the individual partnership work.
CHAIR —The reason I raise it is that another inquiry is being conducted by this particular committee on economic and security matters in the South Pacific. We have received extensive evidence as to the utility of microfinancing. A lot of the submissions we have received went to the facilitation of credit availability in small amounts, not so much the other problems. I am just bringing it to your attention. A range of users and the user countries highlight the fact that the availability of credit in small amounts through appropriate institutions in their countries was, they thought, the critical issue in terms of small sums of money being used by consumers in those countries.
Mr Dawson —I think that is quite right. The issue usually turns on how to do this in a sustainable fashion and in a fashion that establishes arrangements for wider access to financial services which are then backed up by appropriate institutions that you can expect will be there for a period of time. We have over the last few years already been doing some work with the Asian Development Bank and with the World Bank Group on this issue. It is not as if there is no activity on it in the Pacific; I was just responding that it had not featured specifically so far in the partnerships for development discussions.
CHAIR —But in terms of the guidelines that Ms De Lacy is referring to, you think subsequent iterations might refer to that?
Mr Dawson —I am sure we will be working within the scope of those guidelines, yes.
Mr Proctor —In looking at these guidelines there are groups that will need to be is considered. One example is the growing issue of women who have lost their partners to AIDS who need a livelihood. That is one that comes immediately to mind. That is where microfinance is being applied at in various parts of the world to provide them with the opportunity to earn an enduring income. When you look at the policy on microfinance, there are a lot of aspects to it.
CHAIR —It is not just the regulations attached to the institutions that provide the finance; it is the objectives of the government and the social conditions that apply that people would come within. I have got you. So that is a big job.
Mr Dawson —I should have mentioned as well that this issue has some prominence in the Prime Minister’s Port Moresby declaration of 2008. That is the basis for us then taking it forward in Pacific development partnership discussions in the future.
CHAIR —In the future?
Mr Dawson —That is right.
CHAIR —So in those four or five countries where the PPD has been signed, it is not included, but it is going to be an item for future PPDs?
Mr Dawson —We are in discussions with the government of PNG specifically about including a reference to it in the development partnership that was discussed between the prime ministers when they signed the document. We will come back to it in the context of broader dialogue around economic growth and private-sector development in all those countries.
CHAIR —Understood. Thank you, Mr Dawson.
Senator PAYNE —I think it might be a useful time to talk about the PPDs now that we have started, if that is a right, Mr Davis.
Mr Davis —Yes. Would you like me to just add a couple of things from earlier on that you were asking about?
Senator PAYNE —If you have information, certainly, thank you.
Mr Davis —2 March was the date of the establishment of the task force.
Senator PAYNE —Thanks.
Mr Davis —Thank you for the copy of the address by the parliamentary secretary in 2007. The current estimates for year 2010-11 would certainly have us well beyond $4 billion. And, as contained in the budget documentation, the expected level for 2010-11 would be 0.35. So I guess in that sense what he was saying then is consistent with what would be available in 2010-11.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you for finding out that.
Mr Davis —Maybe I should say just a word, Chair, on one of the issues that came through in the discussion just before afternoon tea on NGOs. One of the aspects of our funding of NGOs is for the major organisations. We do provide block grants to those agencies—from example, to World Vision, Care, Caritas, Oxfam and others. That is done on the basis of their reputation. It is based on detailed accreditation processes that we go through with them on a periodic basis. Under that arrangement we do not know every element of how their funding from us is used upfront. We certainly get reports and have accountability trails for that. That is just to emphasise the fact that there are elements of our program which are funded on the block-grant basis to NGOs, and that has been done for many years. It is really after the end of the fiscal year that we then have the details of how that money was used.
CHAIR —Thank you for that.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you for that, Mr Davis, on all of those points. On the PPDs negotiations, which we were discussing on the last occasion, I think it was indicated that there were four further negotiations underway or expected to begin imminently for signing by August of this year—Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Nauru. I have read about Vanuatu being signed at the end of May.
Mr Dawson —Yes, last week.
Mr Davis —Last Wednesday.
Senator PAYNE —Can we have an update, please on the progression of the other three countries and whether they will all be ready to be signed by August—or earlier or later?
Mr Dawson —We would certainly expect that all three of those countries that you mentioned, that the partnership arrangements will be ready to be signed at the Pacific Island Forum leaders meeting, if not before.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. Are there any others under negotiation or likely to begin negotiation soon?
Mr Dawson —We have not started country to country discussions on partnerships with any other countries at this stage, but we are certainly doing some thinking around the kind of shape of partnership arrangements that might be appropriate for countries in Micronesia and for the countries in association with New Zealand.
Senator PAYNE —Countries in association with New Zealand?
Mr Dawson —This is for the Cook Islands and Naui.
Senator PAYNE —Okay. Thanks. In relation to the negotiations with Nauru, as I read the budget papers, it indicates that there will be additional but unspecified funding at this stage provided to Nauru which will be determined during the PPDs negotiations. Is that correct?
Mr Dawson —As with all of these partnership discussions we would expect that, once the head document is determined, we would then look at the individual, specific priority areas and work out some kind of resourcing arrangements around that, which involve commitments from Australia and the partner government. Those things would be progressively identified in the schedules to the partnership document and expressed through the annual budget process. I am aware that in the budget measures there is a continuation of funding for Nauru which was previously under the MOU arrangements. I think there are some annotations in there that say ‘not for publication’. That is not there to indicate any particular secrecy; it was an instruction from our department of finance that the same arrangements that existed under the MOU were to be continued in the way the information is presented in the budget papers.
Senator PAYNE —I understand. So that would explain why the same qualifications—or annotations, as you call them—are not made in the case of Tonga, Vanuatu or Tuvalu?
Mr Dawson —Well, there are no specific budget measures relating to those countries.
Senator PAYNE —Even though you are doing the Pacific Partnerships for Development negotiations?
Mr Dawson —After a couple of sessions of discussion, we have got well down the track with Nauru and, similarly, with Tonga. We are very close to settled text in those two countries and I will be going to Tuvalu later this month to start the discussions there.
Senator PAYNE —From AusAID’s perspective, does the Vanuatu partnership represent any particular changes in the direction of our aid relationship with that country?
Mr Dawson —I will get Mr Tranter, who has been more actively involved in the discussion of the partnership, to respond to that.
Mr Tranter —The partnership with Vanuatu builds on the very strong development relationship we have had with that country over the last few years. The areas of focus within the partnership that you will see in the priority outcomes are around improved education, health, infrastructure and economic governance, which are all areas that feature within the current scope of the relationship.
The most recent development there is around infrastructure—this commitment to a transport sector strategy with two years of financing, which is indicated in the implementation strategy attached to the partnership. This is essentially a new program of work around recurrent operations for road maintenance on three islands, seeking to extend coverage of improved roads in the outer islands and also using a community labour model for the hire of local workers in the completion of that maintenance.
Senator PAYNE —Does this partnership with Vanuatu represent a larger funding commitment from Australia now and into the future or is it keeping the funding relationships at around the same levels?
Mr Dawson —As I think you will see in the minister’s statement, the country allocation for Vanuatu has seen some increase budget to budget, as is the case for 2009-10. We would expect that in subsequent years we would again be looking in the budget process at the capacity to make further increases in support of the partnership. That would obviously be dependent upon the budgetary situation and the progress in implementing the partnership. The intention with these arrangements is always that they be long term and substantial and that there be some predictability around that, and this case will be no different.
Senator PAYNE —I refer to the provisions around performance-linked aid and the funding in that regard and, in particular, the words ‘incentive based elements’ in the PPDs. Can you indicate how that funding is administered and how it is distributed?
Mr Dawson —Those arrangements will be incorporated in the partnership discussions and they will be administered as part of the same dialogue process that we have for the other elements of the partnership.
Senator PAYNE —I am really interested in the way it is loaded into the out years. The funding in the 2011, 2012 or 2013 years is much higher. What does that say about your expectations with regard to the performances under the PPDs in the early years?
Mr Dawson —I think the funding under that particular budget measure in the first couple of years is likely to be heavily concentrated, if not confined to the Pacific region and devoted to the Pacific development partnerships. But, in the later years, I think the intention is that we would, again, look at supporting performance-linked aid arrangements in other countries in Asia. As you may be aware, Senator, there was a previous two-year budget measure around performance-incentive funding, which has provided a lot of learnings to us as we try to work with this particular form of assistance. We have had a deal of experience working on that in Vanuatu, in the Philippines and increasingly in Indonesia. We certainly expect that, for some of the larger Asian countries, some of that funding in the latter years of the initiative would be devoted to Asia.
Senator PAYNE —I had, perhaps mistakenly, therefore assumed that that was almost entirely targeted at the PPDs, but it has a broader application than that?
Mr Dawson —It is broader than that but, I think in the first couple of years, it is likely to be targeted at the Pacific countries and through the Pacific partnerships.
Senator PAYNE —Referring to the PPDs which were signed earlier in the process, the first was our PNG one, I think, and then Samoa, Solomons and then Kiribati.
Mr Dawson —That is correct.
Senator PAYNE —Are you in a position to comment on progress made so far on the implementation of the partnerships in those countries?
Mr Dawson —Certainly. As you would know, the next step after the agreement on the header document is to start to work out more detailed implementation strategies for the priority outcomes that have been identified. That work is going ahead very strongly. We would expect that there would be a number of those implementation strategies agreed to and made publicly available over the next couple of months.
Where we have some discussions at ministerial level planned next week with Papua New Guinea—that ministerial forum meeting—one of the items on the agenda for that we would anticipate will be the status of the Partnership for Development, and work is very well advanced with all of the five schedules under that document. So—we will obviously need to see what the ministers decide—but it is very close to finalising those implementation strategies. A similar situation exists with the other countries—perhaps not quite so advanced in all cases, but there has been a lot of work done. With the implementation strategies in Samoa, for example, that document was signed at the same time as the Papua New Guinea document. That process of developing those strategies has been strongly led by the government of Samoa and there have been working groups established for each of those priority outcomes. Preliminary documents from those have been circulated. They are looked at by officials from both sides and it is hoped that at least some of those would be ready for endorsement by officials when we have some annual partnership talks, probably in early July. Similarly, with the Solomon Islands, I think work is well advanced on a number of the partnership arrangements there. And certainly one in Kiribati.
Senator PAYNE —When did you say you thought the implementation schedules would be made public?
Mr Dawson —As soon as they are agreed to by both sides at the appropriate level, which will usually be ministerial level.
Senator PAYNE —By ‘made public’ do you mean they will be on the AusAID website or something like that?
Mr Dawson —That is right.
Senator PAYNE —In terms of the measurement processes attached to the priority outcomes, when do you realistically expect that an objective observer could say, ‘Ok, here is what we see down for Samoa in relation to education,’ or health or whatever the priority was. Say it is the non-communicable disease priority—their outcome 2 category—when do you think we could reasonably say, ‘Yes, you can look at progress; you can look at advances in this area,’ and see some measurable benefit of the partnership, not just in Samoa but in any of them for that matter.
Mr Dawson —We will do this on an annual basis so when we have implementation strategies in place for all of the agreed priority outcomes, we will come back to those on an annual basis to check performance. Some of the measures in those cases may be administrative or easily verifiable, like numbers of attended births or whether there is a procurement plan in place in the infrastructure sector—something like that. So it will often be a question of just ticking a box. But obviously on development outcomes, it is whether there is an increase in or a decrease in child or maternal mortality. With those things I do not think we can expect that we are going to be able to measure improvements in one or two years. These are obviously long-term changes. But they will be contributed to by a range of contributory actions: whether aid posts are established, whether they are staffed, whether they have got up-to-date pharmaceuticals, whether nurses are properly trained, whether the budgets for health services get down to where services are delivered and those sorts of things.
The purpose of the implementation strategies in all cases is to try to articulate what those key steps are towards an ultimate development outcome, along the lines of the Millennium Development Goals; to measure progress against all of those contributory functions; and then to be measuring progress in terms of the actual development outcome as well. But realistically, I think, the contributory actions need to happen first and the improvement in actual development outcomes happens later and probably with some time lag.
Senator PAYNE —I appreciate that. It is clearly not something you would describe as a speedy process even establishing these, let alone getting the follow-up implementation schedules and so on and so forth finalised and dealt. Are you learning from the first iteration of this—from the PNG and Samoa ones, for example—to make it easier, more efficient or speedier to deal with the next lot? Are there any efficiencies to be gained in that process?
Mr Dawson —I think, obviously, going through the process with one country has some lessons and things that you can take to a similar discussion with other countries. But it is a partnership and every country has to move at its own pace through this process. So it is important to ensure: that there is good local ownership of the kinds of measures that we are putting in place; that commitments are genuinely joint commitments; that, if it involves a commitment from a partner to allocate a particular proportion of their budget to the health sector or the education sector, that commitment is something which is worked through with the central agencies; and that ministers are aware of it.
So I do not think it is ever going to be a speedy process. But I think one of the big lessons from it for us is that it can be an extraordinarily rewarding process in terms of the dialogue on development issues that we are able to have with partners, which often you cannot have when you are dealing simply with a project form of aid that involves a limited number of inputs and outputs.
Senator PAYNE —I wanted to ask about that, Mr Davis, and how would you characterise the balance between the focus that AusAID now has on the development of the Pacific Partnerships for Development—the aims and objectives under those and putting together the subsequent pieces of the puzzle, which we have just been discussing—versus what has been your long-term core business. I assume that continues in parallel. In fact I have been reminded of that by officers of AusAID at previous estimates—that the other core business continues in parallel. How would you characterise the balance as you are achieving it at the moment?
Mr Davis —I think the general trend, well beyond the partnerships, is to look at how we can engage with partner governments in working with and through their own government systems and with and through discussions around their own priorities. There is a reference in the statement to that and it is very consistent with the approach that has come out of the suite of high-level forums on aid effectiveness—that more and more the emphasis is on how we engage over a longer period of time through broader programmatic and sectoral activity. That is very consistent with the approach of the partnerships.
That is not to say that there are not times and places for very specific interventions, specific projects, to meet particular demands, particularly if they are the priorities of the partner country. It is a balance between those two things but the trend, in line with broader international development effectiveness principles, is towards longer term, more programmatic approaches that very much work within partner governments’ own systems.
Senator PAYNE —In the last discussions, and then when following up with the items in this budget, I think I was told that discussion on including HIV-AIDS as a priority item in the partnership with PNG would begin soon. Have those discussions begun?
Mr Dawson —The issue has been discussed between the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Mr McMullan, and the PNG Minister for National Planning & Rural Development, Mr Tiensten. They agreed that HIV should be included as a priority area for the partnership. That has been duly recorded in discussions between officials in the preparation for the PNG-Australia ministerial forum. We expect that that will formally be on the agenda for discussion and for endorsement at that meeting. That is next week.
Senator PAYNE —That is next week?
Mr Dawson —That is right.
Senator PAYNE —That is good to hear. Thank you for that. Could you provide for me on notice, for this financial year and the last—both in dollar terms and in percentage terms—what proportion of aid funding to PNG goes towards HIV AIDS related programs and activities, both as a proportion of total ODA and of country program funding.
Mr Dawson —Certainly.
Senator PAYNE —I have a final question on the PPDs. There is some funding—which goes to DFAT, as I understand it, not to AusAID—to continue to develop enhanced relations with Pacific Island countries which provides inter alia for the negotiation of further PPDs. Can you explain to us, Mr Davis, the relationship between the work that you do in relation to the PPDs and DFAT’s work?
Mr Davis —We take the lead on preparation of the PPDs. But in those discussions we would typically have a member from DFAT accompanying us to the discussions. DFAT has the role of keeping an overview of the broader engagement with countries in the region. PPDs are obviously part of that. We do the work around the preparation of the PPDs. We take the lead in terms of negotiating them. We do that in a collaborative way with the department.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. I want to go to specific country funding questions, if I may and move off PPDs.
CHAIR —Are you talking about specific funding issues related to PPDs?
Senator PAYNE —No, outside that.
CHAIR —So you want to return to program under outcome 1?
Senator PAYNE —If I may. Let me start with Fiji.
Senator PAYNE —Can I get an explanation of any changes that have been made in funding for the Fiji country program and total Australia ODA to Fiji in this budget round?
Mr Dawson —Country program allocations are all presented in table 13 to the minister’s budget statement. That shows that the budget estimate for the country program for 2009-10 for Fiji is $18 million. That is the same level as in 2007-08 and down on the estimated outcome for 2008-09, which was just over $21 million.
Senator PAYNE —And what about total ODA?
Mr Dawson —The total ODA figures are presented in an earlier table in the minister’s statement, table 2. There is an additional column in that table so that you are able to compare budget estimate with budget estimate. There is some explanation that I need to make around this line of figures. Just to recap how the picture of total ODA flows are established for each individual country, it is a combination of the country program, which is presented in table 13—which we were just talking about—and flows through a range of global and regional programs and other government departments.
The main difference between the 2008-09 budget estimate and the 2009-10 budget estimate is that at the time the budget for 2008-09 was being put together there were some significant items that we were not able to make an estimate of in terms of flows to individual countries. The main one was the Australia-Pacific Technical College. We now have a better set of information about the countries from which students are coming to the college and the sorts of courses that they are doing, and so are better able to estimate what the attribution of the total funding for that institution is in terms of benefits to people from individual countries. No estimate of that was possible for all of the Pacific countries in 2008-09. Now we have an estimate of that, and that is about $7 million. That is a significant item which is not in reality an increase in ODA; it is just that we better know where the funding for that Pacific Technical College in terms of individual students. We have a similar—
Senator PAYNE —Does that mean that there are more from Fiji? Is that what you are saying, Mr Dawson?
Mr Dawson —No. What I am saying is that we had no estimate for how to break that expenditure by individual countries when we did the budget in 2008-09. We now have information which allows us to make an attribution and an estimate for how the cost of that institution will be divided between individual countries. We have an estimated figure of close to $7 million against Fiji in this year’s total flows that we did not have before.
Senator PAYNE —How do you make that assessment between the countries?
Mr Dawson —We look at the numbers of students attending the college. We note which countries they come from. We try to look at what little historical perspective that we have to make some judgment about whether this is a realistic estimate.
Senator PAYNE —So is it almost on a per head basis or does it also reflect the courses that people are studying?
Mr Dawson —We will get more sophisticated with this over a period of time. Mostly, the basis for our estimate this time has been a per capita basis.
Senator PAYNE —Could you tell us on notice what the breakdown is for the other countries in the region in relation to the college.
Mr Dawson —Certainly.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. Can you tell us what other programs, projects or activities are being funded under this year’s ODA budget for Fiji?
Mr Dawson —Among the ODA flows which are attributed to Fiji, there is: funding through the AusAID NGO cooperation program; funding for volunteer organisations; funding through the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program; funding for the Australian leadership awards; funding for the direct assistance program, which is administered by DFAT; funding for the Australia-Pacific Technical College, as I indicated; funding through ACR; and funding attributed to the individual country from the Pacific regional program. Again, we need to do an estimate of how much of the funds through regional programs might end up in Fiji. That was one area where when we did the estimates in 2008-09 we did not have as good a sense for a number of the programs that we now have. There is a higher estimate there than there was in 2008/09; an increase of about $3 million.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. I was going to ask how much that was. What about the funding that was previously being provided for assistance with the holding of elections?
Mr Dawson —We had paid some funds associated with a number of functions. With regards to the funding of the position of an election supervisor, no more funding has been allocated since we last spoke. There have been some other developments associated with that, and I will get Mr Tranter to—
Senator PAYNE —Allocated or reallocated?
Mr Dawson —There was funding which had already been allocated to the government of Fiji to support salary supplementation for that position. There has been no further funding. As to the arrangements for that position, I can get Mr Tranter to talk in more detail.
Senator PAYNE —Okay, thank you.
—Senator, you recall that we were providing salary supplementation for the supervisor of the Office of Elections in a direct funding agreement between the Australian government and the Fiji Public Service Commission, who actually employed that individual. With the abrogation of the constitution by the regime on 10 April, all constitutional appointments were effectively revoked. The constitutional office-holders—
Senator PAYNE —Including that one?
—Including that one, yes. The individual received a letter from the interim government on 16 April revoking her position. That effectively made our funding agreement null and void. We formally terminated that funding agreement through correspondence with the Fiji Public Service Commission on 13 May. We had made two quarterly tranche payments, which were for reimbursement of expenditure under that contract, in arrears. That was done on an acquittals basis, and the two payments totalled $73,000. There is a third quarter payment due, which we have not paid—we have not been presented with acquittals. We will need to make an assessment, if we are presented with a request for payment for that tranche. Part of the funding agreement was satisfactory progress towards elections and, clearly, it is difficult to point to progress there in the current circumstances.
Senator PAYNE —Was the nature of the acquittals, Mr Tranter, in relation to work carried out by the supervisor, though?
—That is right—for salary supplementations to that individual.
Senator PAYNE —Is there an expectation of the appointment of a new so-called supervisor of elections?
—We do not have an expectation in the current circumstances. Obviously, we stand ready to support an election in Fiji. There is no prospect of that position being reappointed in the near future. The regime has said it will hold elections in 2014. We stand ready to support the preparations of an election once there is a credible and genuine election timetable.
Senator PAYNE —Do you have an expectation of receiving an application for the payment of the third tranche?
—We may do. We have had informal indications that we may be approached, but, to date, we have not.
Senator PAYNE —Do you know what the potential sum of that payment will be?
Mr Tranter —It would be a payment of $36,000—Fiji dollars.
Senator ABETZ —I just have a brief bracket of questions. I am interested in our engagement in the region, with specific interest in the Solomon Islands, China and Vietnam. I understand that my colleague, Senator Payne, has gone through some countries—
Senator PAYNE —None of those.
Senator ABETZ —Excellent. Could I be provided with an indication of our aid budget to each of these countries for this year and for the forward estimates? And, as I am somebody who does not come into these estimates committees on a regular basis, could you assist me with the page numbers where I might find these things?
Mr Dawson —As for the 2008-09 and the 2009-10 financial years, table 13 at page 71 of the minister’s statement sets out the country program allocations including to the Solomon Islands. That figure also includes that part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. That is funded through AusAID appropriations. Table No. 2 earlier in the document at page 17 has the figures for total ODA flows to the Solomon Islands.
Senator ABETZ —On page 71, Solomon Islands is two down from the top. Is that right?
Mr Dawson —That is correct.
Senator ABETZ —Do I find Vietnam on that as well?
Mr Dawson —Further down.
Senator ABETZ —I can find Vietnam and China as well. Then on page 17 they find themselves in about the same place again. This is where we are engaged with partner countries on page 17—is that right—or we are partnering.
Mr Dawson —Page 17 is a picture of the total official development assistance flows to individual countries and regions.
Senator ABETZ —From Australia?
Mr Dawson —From Australia, yes.
Senator ABETZ —So the Solomon Islands is getting an increase in our aid budget. Is that correct?
Mr Dawson —The figures there represent, as I said, total official development assistance from all sources from Australia. The largest individual contributor to that is the assistance to the Solomon Islands Police Force through the participating police force through Australian Federal Police and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Senator ABETZ —We have a budget estimate, an estimated outcome and then the final column is the budget estimate for the following year.
Mr Dawson —That is right. If you want me to run through that or if you want us to take it on notice, we can give a detailed breakdown of those figures.
Senator ABETZ —Yes, if I could, as to what sorts of things we are concentrating on. You have just told us in relation to the Solomon Islands in relation to our funding. But I would be interested in Vietnam, the next one of the three countries that I was interested in, going down that column. Is that mainly on developmental aid or is it in the health area? Are you able to classify the bulk of the assistance we provide?
Mr Moore —Maybe I can help you there by giving you a sectoral breakdown of our assistance to Vietnam for 2009-10. The largest sector will be infrastructure. That comprises about a third of our assistance.
Senator ABETZ —Is there a specific project there? I remember visiting Vietnam once and the newly elected Howard government had cancelled—was it the Friendship Bridge?
Mr Moore —In Vietnam it was the My Thuan Bridge.
Senator ABETZ —That is the one; that is the bridge. Then I had the happy news of being able to tell them when I went over there that we were reinstating the funding. Is there a special project?
Senator PAYNE —You are probably a national hero, Senator Abetz.
Senator ABETZ —I doubt it. I think they knew I was just a humble messenger.
Mr Moore —There are several projects in both the transport and energy sectors. We are working strongly with the Asian Development Bank in the Mekong region. It has got plans to join up the various countries of the region. We are working with them on what is called the Greater Mekong Subregion Southern Coastal Corridor—about $11 million will be spent. We are using our grant assistance to complement loans from the Asian Development Bank to enhance the quality of the infrastructure. Likewise we are working with the World Bank on the Mekong Transport Infrastructure Development Project and on rural power distribution.
Senator ABETZ —What about China?
Mr Moore —There are a couple of different dimensions to our assistance in China. We are working with China as a partner in order to help it grapple with some of the residual development problems it still has itself—still 200 million absolutely poor people in China—and also because what happens to China impacts on the rest of the region, obviously. Restoring growth in China is tremendously important to developing countries in the region as well as to ourselves. We are working with China on health, environment and governance issues. For example, we are currently working with them to extend health insurance to the 300 million people who are currently uncovered by health insurance and can face—
Senator ABETZ —Not private health insurance? That is a flippant comment—we will canvass health insurance issues elsewhere, the parliamentary secretary will be pleased to know. I could not help myself.
CHAIR —Stop that, we will stop that!
Senator ABETZ —Thank you, Chair. I stand disciplined.
Mr Moore —We have also been working with relevant Chinese agencies on policies to counteract social security fraud and in the environmental area to deal with the pollution of waterways and to improve integrated river basin management because of the pressure on resources not only in China but throughout the region.
Senator ABETZ —The largest area—is it health? Environment? Governance issues?
Mr Moore —The largest area at present is health—
Senator ABETZ —Health. Can you just take me through that insurance? On reflection, I might want to ask some questions about it. How does this work? Are we trying to assist them to set up a health insurance scheme?
Mr Moore —Yes. The relevant body has had several visits to Australia and dialogue with relevant authorities here. It is quite interested in Australian models of medical provision and regulatory models of health insurance management. As I said, they are currently trying to develop systems that will work in the Chinese context. That has not yet come to fruition but they do have a target of trying to close that 300 million person gap over the course of the next 5 years.
Senator ABETZ —That is quite a task, isn’t it?
Mr Moore —Quite a task. If I might also add that the other dimension of our work with China is to work on its international efforts. Everybody is aware that China is a very significant international player and so we are having an extensive dialogue with them about our development programs and about the way they approach international development issues. We have hosted visits from relevant agencies in China, designed to influence each other’s work to enhance the quality and effectiveness of it.
Senator ABETZ —Thank you very much for that. Just so I understand these columns that I was kindly referred to earlier on pages 17 and 71—assist me, I am a novice in this area—are those contributions on page 71 to be read in conjunction with the contributions on page 17? Do we add them together—
Mr Dawson —No.
Senator ABETZ —Or is page 71 a subset of page 17?
Mr Dawson —That is correct.
Senator ABETZ —For example, with the Solomon Islands, the $246.2 million estimate for the budget 2009-10; is the $109.3 million on page 71 part of that $246.2 million?
Mr Dawson —That is correct.
Senator ABETZ —Thank you very much for that explanation. If I could prevail on Mr Moore in relation to these three countries if you could provide me with about a one-page detail on what our aid projects entail, what they are designed to do and achieve and how much is allocated; that would be very helpful. Can I just ask: in relation to the allocations to these three countries, is it planned to engage in any new projects or is it all ongoing? Are there any exciting new projects that you can tell us about that we might become involved in as a nation?
Mr Dawson —Senator, for the Solomon Islands, you may not have heard the earlier discussion about Pacific development partnerships. I think the most significant development in relation to our cooperation with the Solomon Islands involves the partnership arrangement that was signed between prime ministers earlier this year, which has a focus on a number of initial priority areas: improved service delivery, particularly health and later we also expect education; improved economic livelihoods, especially in relation to rural households; and improved economic infrastructure—transport, energy, telecommunication services et cetera.
Senator ABETZ —It is covering the field pretty well.
Mr Dawson —That is correct. It is a big program in the Solomons and it is widespread across a number of areas. I think the discussions around the content of the bilateral Pacific Partnerships for Development is probably the change which is most notable in relation to that program. You also see in the other budget documents a provision for the extension of funding for the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, which is a multicountry mission that involves contributions from a range of Australian agencies. The fact that it has now been extended for another four years and a partnership arrangement has been agreed between the Regional Assistance Mission and the Solomon Islands government is also a significant development recently.
Senator ABETZ —That is in relation to the Solomon Islands. Is there anything in China of particular note that you would seek to draw to our attention?
Mr Moore —I think I would note our health work in Tibet. We have done one phase of the assistance there. You would appreciate the health indicators are very much worse than in other parts of the country. We have had one phase of health system strengthening in Tibet and I am looking forward to a second phase where we can build on the achievements to date, which have included work to reduce maternal mortality.
Senator ABETZ —When you say a second phase that would be a new phase?
Mr Moore —It would, yes. In regard to Vietnam, I would note that there have been discussions between our two governments and Parliamentary Secretary McMullan and counterparts in Vietnam have agreed to strengthen further the scholarship cooperation between us, which is already extensive but Vietnam is very hungry for knowledge. I envisage that our scholarship programs will grow and likewise infrastructure is a major priority, so although it is already a third of our program I envisage that it will grow further.
Senator ABETZ —Thank you very much. My colleagues have been very gracious.
CHAIR —Thank you, Senator Abetz. Senator Payne.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you very much, Chair. I wanted to go to east Asia, I think it would be-—questions on Indonesia and Burma respectively?
Senator PAYNE —Let me start with Burma. As I read the figures, in this year’s budget we are showing a decrease of about $15 million in total ODA to Burma but an almost $10 million increase in the country program. Is that a correct interpretation? And can you explain that to me, please.
Mr Moore —Probably the best way to look at this is pre Nargis and post Nargis. Obviously, when the cyclone hit last year, that elicited a very significant additional response above our normal operations in Burma. The total quantum of assistance for Nargis efforts is $55 million, but that has been spread over two years to date, and there is another $5 million provisioned for 2009-10. So that is why you see this hump and the decline from there in the coming year. If you compare 2009-10 with 2007-08, you will see an increase. Obviously, we are still in the recovery phase from Nargis. The relief phase has finished, but there is still an awful lot to be done to assist people to completely restore their livelihoods after the cyclone.
Senator PAYNE —Thanks, Mr Moore. I do have some questions relating to the funding for Cyclone Nargis and I appreciate that explanation. Can you, on notice, I assume, give us a breakdown of our total ODA and country program aid funding to Burma for 2009-10, please—or can you do that now?
Mr Moore —I hope I can help you with that now, Senator. Health is a major area of focus. We are a significant partner in the Three Diseases Fund—that is a multidonor mechanism which is used to tackle HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. We are putting a lot of effort into livelihood restoration. Obviously, the cyclone in particular destroyed crops, equipment, boats and fishing gear, and so a lot of work has gone into re-establishing livelihoods. Part of that—the first port of call—has been to provide food aid assistance through the World Food Program. We envisage that continuing at a similar level to last year, so I am envisaging it will be about $4.5 million. We have longstanding programs to assist the Rohingya people in Northern Rakhine State, and that is through Care Australia but also work with UNHCR.
In the protection area, we have been working with UNICEF on programs of juvenile justice for some time, and I envisage that that will continue. That is a small but very valuable program of about $422,000. As you would also be aware, we have been long-term supporters of the camps on the Thai-Burma border. That funding is still to be determined, but I would envisage that we would be providing levels of funding similar to those we have provided in the past, which is about $1 million.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. As for the administration of those programs, Mr Moore, from part of what you said I understand some of it is administered by NGOs, some of it by multilateral agencies, obviously; are any directed by AusAID?
Mr Moore —We obviously oversight all of the delivery both in terms of making the decision about who is best placed in-country to deliver the assistance and then facilitating the agreements that govern the expenditure of Australian money, and in terms of following that money through the channels to make sure it is used for the purposes for which it is intended. We only work with very reputable partners of good standing and experience in-country; it is not a place for newcomers to come in and pioneer programs. Fortunately, although the range of players is more limited than in other places, there are many who can deliver within the constrained environments in Burma—I would commend in particular WFP for its efforts over many years, particularly in regard to Cyclone Nargis.
Senator PAYNE —That leads me to a question about a relatively recent media report, which I think appeared in the Age at the end of April. It included reports from UN sources that donors to the recovery effort were in fact holding back funds because of a wish not to be seen to be supporting the regime in Burma. Is AusAID aware of those reports, and has that been your experience? Is that an accurate reflection of what we have seen happening on the ground?
Mr Moore —Our key objective is to make sure that the suffering of the people is alleviated, that their ability to earn income is restored and that the basic, essential services are available. Obviously that was hard before Cyclone Nargis and it has been made harder still by the cyclone. This is a difficult operating environment and one has to take special measures to make sure that funds are being fully utilised for the purposes for which they have been allocated. But, as I said, it is possible to do that; we think we have got the measures in place. So we think it is possible to operate and indeed to increase our operations in ways which do not confer legitimacy to or otherwise resource the regime.
Senator PAYNE —I appreciate that from our perspective, but I wonder if you can advise whether we have any experience of seeing other donors—
Mr Moore —Senator, I obviously cannot speak for others—
Senator PAYNE —No, I do not want you to.
Mr Moore —but I would observe that PONRREP, which is the Post-Nargis Relief and Recovery Plan—
Senator PAYNE —That is not an acronym I have heard before.
Mr Moore —I think I am right in recalling that the funding requested for delivery of that plan was in the order about half a billion dollars. Well, the amount that has been raised is nowhere near that. I can find out the exact amount, but I know it is very, very underfunded, and I think you can draw your own conclusions about the reluctance of partners to meet those needs.
Senator PAYNE —I appreciate that, Mr Moore. I want to ask you about the debt-to-health swap—you knew that.
Mr Moore —Yes.
Senator PAYNE —If I am not mistaken, we—specifically, you and I—have had exchanges on this in at least two of the past couple of estimates, and you have said that a series of discussions had been held and were continuing to be held on the debt-to-health swap with Indonesia. But, when I read the budget papers, they say:
The Government will enter into negotiations with the Government of Indonesia to forgive $75.0 million in debt …
I am interested what ‘enter into’ means in this context, when I had understood from you that this process was in fact well underway.
Mr Moore —We have certainly been talking about the debt-for-health swap. Now that it has been formalised and monies have been appropriated it is the correct time to put the agreements in place to give effect to this agreement. So when we talk about moving to that negotiation phase I think it is just recognition of the fact that we have now got to codify this and reach formal agreement between all of the parties.
Senator PAYNE —How long will that take in your estimation?
Mr Moore —It is hard to say but I think you can tell that by appropriating monies this year the Australian government has made it possible for us to reach agreement and proceed quickly. I envisage it will take several more months but the money has been appropriated now so the measure can proceed. It is slated to be drawn down over a six-year period at the rate of $12.5 million per annum starting next year but my advice is that because the appropriation is in this year’s budget we are not constrained to that timetable.
Senator PAYNE —Are you saying that you could do it in a shorter time?
Mr Moore —I am saying that commencement could conceivably occur before then.
Senator PAYNE —Is it conceivable there might be a degree of disappointment in Indonesia? I think they were expecting a range of perhaps one or two years rather than a six-year process weren’t they?
Mr Moore —I cannot speak for the Indonesian government but I think that this is a more manageable arrangement.
Senator PAYNE —More manageable for whom?
Mr Moore —I think it is more manageable for both sides because part of the deal is that the Indonesian government must take $37½ million in total from its own budget and put that into global fund programs for TB.
Senator PAYNE —Does Indonesia already make any contribution to the global fund?
Mr Moore —My understanding is this will put them in a different position. They will become essentially a donor to the fund, and that is part of the attraction. But of course as you know they have already negotiated an agreement with Germany so I assume they may simply go over a threshold, but Mr Proctor knows more about the global fund than me and might be able to supplement that answer.
Mr Proctor —No, I think the answer is correct. Indonesia certainly has not been any significant donor in the past; clearly mainly a recipient of a number of rounds of grants. I am also not quite sure how much of the German monies have actually flowed from Indonesia to the fund yet.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. I do not have any further specific questions on East Asia, Chair.
CHAIR —Let us move to program 1.3.
Senator JOHNSTON —I want to raise the issue of what is happening in Afghanistan. First of all, I would like to deal with how much money we have got at our disposal this year and what we anticipate we can do with it. Then we will talk about the election.
Mr Sherwin —The country program is, I think, $53.6 million for this financial year. We would also expect some humanitarian expenditure on top of that.
Senator JOHNSTON —And what is the difference between the $53.6 million and humanitarian expenditure?
Mr Sherwin —The $53.6 million would be spent on development programs—perhaps activities that complement the ADF’s reconstruction activities. Humanitarian funds would be for things like food, if there are food shortages this year.
Senator JOHNSTON —Right, so we have, as a natural contingency, a humanitarian quotient but we do not know what it is. We have it there just in case.
Mr Sherwin —We have a planned figure, which brings the total expected expenditure to just over $70 million.
Senator JOHNSTON —So we have a planned figure of $20 million?
Mr Sherwin —Yes, a little under.
Senator JOHNSTON —What are we going to do with our $53 million? What are these projects?
Mr Sherwin —A large part of our expenditure goes to national programs which are run through a World Bank trust fund, and there are a range of activities that those programs support.
Senator JOHNSTON —Just step me through the process of how we get the Australian taxpayer dollar onto the ground in Afghanistan.
Mr Sherwin —In terms of the World Bank trust fund, it has a number of components. For example, there is a program called EQUIP, which funds school construction. So the World Bank reports to us on national figures for construction of schools and we also have Oruzgan-specific figures for construction of schools.
Senator JOHNSTON —That is good. How do we get the money to the World Bank trust fund?
Mr Sherwin —We have an agreement with them and we release money to the fund.
Senator JOHNSTON —Which is located where?
Mr Sherwin —They have staff in Afghanistan who are implementing the program.
Senator JOHNSTON —We do not pay the money in Afghanistan, surely?
Mr Sherwin —I do not know where the physical bank account sits but the money does find its way to Afghanistan and is implemented in Afghanistan.
Senator JOHNSTON —But the trust fund must have an office somewhere that is available for us to make a transaction.
Mr Sherwin —The World Bank has an office in Kabul.
Mr Dawson —I think you will find that all World Bank trust funds are located in Washington.
Senator JOHNSTON —That is what I was thinking. In Washington we give the World Bank trust fund $53 million at some point during the next year.
Mr Sherwin —The whole amount would not go there, but that would be one of the activities that we would likely fund during the course of the year—and have funded before, over a number of years.
Senator JOHNSTON —Does the trust fund take any fee off the top of what we put into it, to administer the money?
Mr Sherwin —I am not aware of that, Senator. I can give you some examples of some activities that are funded through the program. The program supports basic services delivered by the Afghan government, such as health and education services. It also has a program called the National Solidarity Program, which promotes development of rural villages and empowers communities to construct their own projects. These are small scale projects—it might be a bridge, some road refurbishment or construction. There is the Education Quality Improvement Program, which provides teachers and school facilities and supports communities to better manage their teaching activities, and the National Rural Access Program, which connects villages to basic rural infrastructure and services such as markets, health care and schools and generates employment opportunities for rural communities. There is a basic package of health services, and this is linked with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health’s plans for Afghanistan, but the money is channelled through our trusted partner in the World Bank. There is also some microfinance investment support.
Senator JOHNSTON —Tell me how I can be assured that the money that we give to the World Bank trust fund is being properly disbursed on the ground to those very laudable projects that you have mentioned such that it does not end up in some politician’s bank account in Switzerland.
Mr Sherwin —We have an legal agreement with them, obviously.
Mr JOHNSON —With the World Bank trust fund?
Mr Sherwin —Yes, with the World Bank.
Senator JOHNSTON —They are probably very reliable. I am sure they are, but I am rather more concerned about the next couple of steps.
Mr Sherwin —Our assessment of their activities comes from reports which they would provide to all donors, but we also do some assessment of the quality of their activities.
Senator JOHNSTON —Tell me exactly.
Mr Sherwin —There was an independent review done, which was released in 2008 to all donors.
Senator JOHNSTON —By whom?
Mr Sherwin —It was done by an organisation called Scanteam, a Norwegian company. Also, the World Bank trust fund has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to oversee financial issues.
Senator JOHNSTON —How many of the Scanteam team and the Pricewaterhouse team actually went into country?
Mr Sherwin —I am not sure that Pricewaterhouse and Scanteam were linked in that activity. I would have to take on notice how many people from Scanteam went in country.
Senator JOHNSTON —We are told by our partner that things are going well and I take it we have no reason to doubt that?
Mr Sherwin —That is right.
Senator JOHNSTON —That is why we keep giving them money. But other than their reports, descriptions, verbal and written assurances, what do we have to ensure that the medical supplies are in fact being delivered and that the school, which has a person who is being supported by our money, is actually benefiting?
Mr Sherwin —They are a trusted partner, so I think we can rely on their reports pretty significantly.
Senator JOHNSTON —We have been down this track before in a sort of an arms length manner with respect to wheat and other products. People have been given to understand that things were happening when they really were not. All I am asking for is the smoking gun of assurance that the money is actually going to where we think it is going.
Mr Sherwin —We do have some limited capacity, given the security constraints, with staff who are under ADF protection in Oruzgan who can, with the ADF, either visit and eyeball activities or talk with partners about things that have been completed. So within Oruzgan province we do have some specific capacity to see and check that what we are hearing about numbers of schools constructed, teachers being trained and provided to schools et cetera is actually happening.
Senator JOHNSTON —How many personnel do we have in Oruzgan?
Mr Sherwin —We have two development adviser positions in Oruzgan.
Senator JOHNSTON —Are they filled?
Mr Sherwin —They are filled.
Senator JOHNSTON —I am told that they can very rarely get out of Tarin Kowt.
Mr Sherwin —They can get out of Tarin Kowt when the ADF is able to provide the force protection to take them around. I have been around with one of our development advisers to look at ADF reconstruction activities on the ground, so it is possible.
Senator JOHNSTON —But the reconstruction activities are not through the World Bank trust fund, are they?
Mr Sherwin —No.
Senator JOHNSTON —I am looking for the assurance that our third-party partner is doing what we think it is doing.
Mr Sherwin —There is another activity that I can give an example of that is not the World Bank trust fund but a local activity which links with the ADF reconstruction activities, and that is that we have recently concluded an agreement with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and the UN on rehabilitating some roads. These are roads which link, in this case, with an ADF reconstructed bridge, so those roads will help provide better access to basic services for the people in that part of Oruzgan. There is a direct link between ADF reconstruction and what we are trying to do through our partners. That would be an activity that I would imagine our development advisers would be able to see in the course of time.
Senator JOHNSTON —And because our senior military commanders are there they can tell us how it is going and we can get a report. There are 400,000 people in Oruzgan province in a country of 33 million. Is that correct?
Mr Sherwin —Approximately. Accurate population measures are hard to come by.
Senator JOHNSTON —But give or take.
Mr Sherwin —Yes.
Senator JOHNSTON —In a country of 33 million. And our principal partner is the World Bank trust fund.
Mr Sherwin —They are one partner, but we have other partners too.
Senator JOHNSTON —How much do we give them—all of the $53 million or just part of it?
Mr Sherwin —No, not all of the $53 million. The amount is determined each year and people to go to the minister to determine what we think is an appropriate amount given the whole program.
Senator JOHNSTON —So I come back to the original question. The issue is that I need you to give me the assurance and confidence that what we give to the trust fund actually gets to where we want it to go and is not absorbed in some other way that we would be very unhappy about.
Mr Tinning —I am the assistant director-general to the development partnerships branch in AusAID. That includes responsibility for our overall engagement with the World Bank.
Senator JOHNSTON —The World Bank trust fund or the World Bank?
Mr Tinning —The World Bank relationship generally. The World Bank has some very rigorous accountability mechanisms in place that apply to all its programs. That includes an independent evaluation office that goes in and assesses the effectiveness of all of its programs. That is entirely independent of World Bank management. They also have a board that is overseen—
Senator JOHNSTON —Does it do Afghanistan?
Mr Tinning —It is across every World Bank program globally, including Afghanistan.
Senator JOHNSTON —The reason I raise Afghanistan is because it is not like going into East Timor—
Mr Tinning —That is right.
Senator JOHNSTON —or Vanuatu. We have 100 war fighters deployed to protect people trying to vote in August. All I am saying is that these assurances are fine but we are talking about Afghanistan, where people are dying in large numbers every day.
Mr Tinning —That is right. The World Bank does operate in Afghanistan and the evaluations and accountability processes that apply to the World Bank’s activities include very rigorous requirements around operating in difficult environments, including Afghanistan.
Senator JOHNSTON —What do we hold up and take comfort from? What do you show the minister to satisfy him and the audit office, the ANAO, that this money is finding its way to where we want it?
Mr Tinning —That includes the reports from this independent evaluation office that is independent of World Bank management. There is also regular reporting to the World Bank board, which is overseen by shareholders of all the World Bank’s member countries, which is basically the entire globe. And there are obviously a lot of donor partners for the World Bank in Afghanistan, including most of the other `major donors who are there. They also partner with the World Bank in -country and help to provide that reassurance for us.
Senator JOHNSTON —Firstly, who is the independent body of the World Bank and what do we know of them? What experience have we had with them? And what makes us confident that what they tell us is 100 per cent?
Mr Tinning —We know a lot of them from our engagement with the World Bank. They deal regularly with the World Bank board, of which we have a member. They basically report directly to the World Bank board. We have a representative there at the moment from our Treasury department and he has a lot to do with the independent evaluation group. They have a great deal of credibility amongst the donor community and I think their reports and judgments are seen as genuinely independent and trustworthy.
Senator JOHNSTON —Who established that office?
Mr Tinning —It was established by the World Bank board in conjunction with the then President of the World Bank. I believe it was under President Wolfensohn.
Senator JOHNSTON —So President Wolfensohn established an independent review mechanism to review the functions of the board and the bank of which he was the chairman?
Mr Tinning —It was established basically at the direction of the World Bank shareholders as represented by the World Bank board.
Senator JOHNSTON —Of which we are one.
Mr Tinning —Of which we are one.
Senator JOHNSTON —How many of the audit office offices that you have spoken of actually go into Afghanistan on a regular basis?
Mr Tinning —I would have to take that on notice, but we can certainly get that information from the World Bank.
Senator JOHNSTON —I think that is the important question to answer, so that we know we are not taking hearsay as gospel and we can be confident that the $53 million or whatever we give to the World Bank trust fund is in fact spent as they tell us it is. I thank you for those answers. Can we go on to the election?
Mr Sherwin —Certainly.
Senator JOHNSTON —What are we spending on the election? Are we spending anything on voter registration?
Mr Sherwin —We are. There is $8 million that Australia has committed to date. There has been $6 million to the United Nations Development Program. About half of that has supported voter registration, which saw about 4½ million new voters register. Approximately 40 per cent of those were women.
Senator JOHNSTON —Very good.
Mr Sherwin —The other $3 million was used by the UNDP to support the establishment of the electoral complaints commission, or to assist the Afghan government establish an electoral complaints commission. That is obviously about maximising the credibility of the electoral process. There was $2 million to the Asia Foundation for voter education and public outreach activities. That is about promoting broad participation of all Afghans, including women and displaced people. That is all at this point.
Senator JOHNSTON —I am impressed with that and I undying thank you for those answers. I think that is very good. What does that convert to in practical terms for my mind’s eye picture on the ground? Are we paying for people to go round putting up advertisements, putting things in letterboxes or whatever they have to communicate to tell them to register, or advertising on billboards? What are we actually doing?
Mr Sherwin —There may be some of that, but from talking to UNDP one of the major forms of communicating with voters has been using SMS services. Many people have mobile phones and they have found that a very effective means of outreach. There is written material I have seen from them as well and pictures and things like that, but also people are using modern technology which has a reasonably widespread reach.
Senator JOHNSTON —Are we having any particular relevance to any particular province?
Mr Sherwin —Our support is national.
Senator JOHNSTON —So the United Nations Organisation is broadly spread across the whole country and we are just giving them the money to do what what they want.
Mr Sherwin —Yes, they are assisting the government of Afghanistan, and there is a very strong intention and actual situation where the Afghan government is in the lead in the organisation of the election. They are getting fairly significant support too, but it is very much the government of Afghanistan in the lead and these organisations like UNDP and the Asia Foundation are assisting the running of the election according to a detailed operational plan which has been sent out to all donors.
Senator JOHNSTON —That is the current expenditure with respect to registration and electoral promotion, if you like. What are we spending on monitoring?
Mr Sherwin —The government has a commitment, which the Prime Minister referred to, to get some observers or monitors in country. I think the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade talked about this last night. We are in discussion with them—
Senator JOHNSTON —They largely told us to ask you.
Mr Sherwin —I think on that one they have a lead role. AusAID has a history of funding electoral observers as a development activity—
Senator JOHNSTON —Maybe that is why they told us to ask you.
Mr Sherwin —Yes. It might have been more on the funding line. They have, I think, a lead role in terms of how we might approach this in terms of talking with other donors and what they are doing. There are obviously a number of issues to work through which they mention, such as security of anyone who went there, and also the Afghanistan government itself is putting in place monitors and observers. There might be more that Australia can do on that front but I cannot say anything more at this stage other than we are working on the observer issue and there might also be some other things we can do.
Senator JOHNSTON —It strikes me that there is great difficulty concerning civilian observers in the current circumstances particularly in the south-eastern and south-western provinces.
Mr Sherwin —The security situation is obviously very difficult for development generally. The voter registration went quite well in terms of there being a relative absence of security incidents. Whether the election process itself goes as well is to be tested on 20 August. With the government of Afghanistan in the lead and I think a desire that in and around polling stations both the electoral officials and the security, such as are needed, will be provided by the Afghan government, that presents issues which all international donors who want to put observers in will have to work through. There are a fair few discussions going on, as DFAT indicated, about how observers will be put into place and what the arrangements will be.
Senator JOHNSTON —Thank you for that. It sounds like there is quite a considered plan being worked up with respect to authenticating the process. Off the top, can you tell me what the voter turnout was as a percentage at the last election? Do you know that figure? If you don’t, that is fine.
Mr Sherwin —We can get that for you. I think it was something like 30 per cent but we will obviously check and get back to you. We will take it on notice.
Senator JOHNSTON —Thank you very much.
Senator PAYNE —I do not think that Senator Johnston went to the budget item of $352.8 million over four years, which has increased assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Can you give us a breakdown of that funding between the two countries and a breakdown of the programs that will be provided under it?
Mr Sherwin —The $350.8 million is composed of an existing Afghanistan-Pakistan budget measure which commenced in 2007-2008.
Senator PAYNE —What proportion of it is—
Mr Sherwin —That is a little over $200 million over four years. There is the Afghanistan-Pakistan assistance 2009-10 budget measure, which is a new budget measure, about $70 million—and I am sorry that I do not have subtotals in the columns—and then there is around $65 million of departmental. All the previous figures I mentioned, sorry, were administered funds.
Senator PAYNE —Can you tell us how it divides between the countries?
Mr Sherwin —Yes. There is around $266 million for Afghanistan—that is in the administered side—and I just cannot read the Pakistan figure, sorry. So $266 million in the Afghanistan country program and $65 million in departmental, and I think that the balance would be for Pakistan.
Mr Davis —We can get a more detailed break-up of the total for you.
Senator PAYNE —I think that that would be very helpful, Mr Davis.
Senator JOHNSTON —I am told that there were 12 for Pakistan—
Senator PAYNE —If we can get a breakdown of the programs that are provided under that funding between the two countries as well, that would be good. Before we move off this program 1.3 area, I would just like to ask a question about Somalia.
CHAIR —Yes, Senator Payne.
Senator PAYNE —There is no total ODA to Somalia specified in the budget paper, but we have the odd press release from the minister announcing new funding since the budget, which, as I understand it, is $1½ million to the UN’s humanitarian appeal and half a million dollars to the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM. Is that correct?
Mr Isbister —Yes. The $2 million was a commitment that was made in response to the situation in Somalia. As you have identified, $1½ million went to the UN humanitarian appeal and half a million dollars to the peacekeeping AMISOM initiative.
Senator PAYNE —Does that arise out of discussions between the government and the Somali interim government or UN representatives or African Union representatives? How have we come to this amount and this assessment?
Mr Isbister —It has arisen out of conversations within the international community about the current humanitarian situation in Somalia. It has particularly arisen out of concerns about the deteriorating security situation and the need for the African Union peacekeeping efforts there to try and provide some level of security so that humanitarian assistance can be provided. Hence, the decision came about to provide half a million dollars for the AMISOM, and in addition to that $1½ million-odd to provide assistance in humanitarian efforts.
Senator PAYNE —Is it just those discussions in the international community you have referred to there, Mr Isbister, or are there any direct requests received by Australia from the interim government or the UN or the African Union?
Mr Isbister —There was a Somalia donors conference held in Brussels. I cannot recall the exact date; it was a month or two ago.
Senator PAYNE —Could you check that and come to us on notice, please?
Mr Isbister —I could. At that meeting there were requests jointly by the Secretary-General and by the African Union for assistance to the situation in Somalia.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. In the broad of the ODA funding that is allocated to Africa for 2009-10, is it possible to tell us whether it is anticipated that any more funding will go to Somalia?
Mr Isbister —At this stage, there is no decision. Clearly, the situation in Somalia remains very volatile and there is no doubt there is a huge humanitarian crisis there. AusAID is continuing to monitor the situation within Somalia and also the flow-on effects to neighbouring countries as a result of displacement of people. At this stage, I could simply say that we will continue to monitor it and, if need be, may make a recommendation for further assistance.
Senator PAYNE —Would that assistance be in the form of funding for humanitarian programs? Would it also include programmed aid?
Mr Isbister —It would be humanitarian assistance.
Senator PAYNE —I think in terms of Africa, South and Central Asia and Middle East and other areas, those are my questions.
Senator JOHNSTON —With respect to the budget papers, I note that under the heading ‘Africa, South-Central Asia and Middle East’ we have got Africa. I do not know whether somebody has already raised this because I was called away, but I note that for the Africa line item we have got more than $100 million and yet when we work down we have got Bhutan getting $3 million and 4.6. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if we actually saw in this particular table the countries anticipated to be receiving the money? Has that question already been answered?
Senator PAYNE —I think that would be in the eye of the beholder!
Senator JOHNSTON —So there was a satisfactory answer.
Ms Davis —The discussion earlier was as much around the split between the amount that is provided on a country basis and what is provided on a regional basis within Africa. We can provide further detail though around the likely general flows between key recipients, key-country recipients and the likely regional flows.
Senator JOHNSTON —You can see my logic there. When you talk about $3 million last year for Bhutan and $101 billion last year for Africa, I would have thought we should break it up so that we can see in the list who has got what, no matter how many pages it takes up. But let’s move on.
With Palestine, I would like to talk about the $31.3 million going into Gaza this year. The $31.3 million is going to where? And what is break-up between the West Bank and Gaza?
Mr Sherwin —This is $31.3 million? We do not have a split between Gaza and the West Bank at this point. And some of our funding goes to organisations which operate in both places. I am not quite sure about the $31.3 million figure. Where are you referencing that from?
Senator JOHNSTON —It is $32.3 million in 2009-10 and, sorry, it was $31.3 in 2008-09. The figures are roughly the same give or take $1 million. What do we anticipate we have received for our previous $30 million and what are we looking to get with the current $30-odd million?
Mr Sherwin —In broad terms assistance into the Palestinian territories supports basic services like health and education. It does that through the Palestinian Authority, but using a mechanism, which is a trust fund mechanism. That supports health—
Senator JOHNSTON —Is it a different health fund to the World Bank trust fund?
Mr Sherwin —It is a World Bank trust fund. That is under the Palestinian Reform Development Plan; that is the people who come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Then, for refugees who come under the jurisdiction of UNRRA’s specific mandate, there would be resources going through them that would assist again with the provision of basic services: health, education, sanitation.
Senator JOHNSTON —What do we do to ensure that our money, in Gaza particularly, is getting to where it should, given that it is controlled by Hamas?
Mr Sherwin —In terms of specific monitoring and reporting, I can give you some information on that. We obviously get reports on our assistance that goes into that part of the world and that has gone, for example, in relation to the conflict earlier this year and the support that was provided. We use a number of UN agencies and trusted international partners like the International Committee of the Red Cross, who have experience operating in conflict environments, and also reporting out of them on the circumstances, the assessment of the issues, what the needs are as well as what they deliver. We are obviously interested in all of that, but in terms of monitoring and reporting we are able to look at, and have to rely on, their reports. More broadly in the Palestinian territories we do have an officer based in Ramallah, who works—
Senator JOHNSTON —Mr Scott?
Mr Sherwin —No. We have a locally engaged staff member who reports to Canberra, to AusAID, but who works under the day-to-day supervision of the DFAT senior representative. That person, as well as Mr Scott at times, goes to various forums and donor meetings and provides reporting to us on what is happening. Our locally engaged staff person is able to get access to and look at some of the activities we fund on the ground.
Senator JOHNSTON —He does not get an opportunity to have a look at what we fund on the ground in Gaza, though, does he?
Mr Sherwin —No, he does not. I understand no Australian officials are going to Gaza at this point.
Senator JOHNSTON —Are there any reliable sources going into Gaza to give us an accurate account of what is happening?
Mr Sherwin —Those trusted partners I referred to earlier, although access is at a premium, if I can put it that way.
Senator JOHNSTON —You said the Red Cross. I do not think it is the Red Cross; it is the Red Crescent or the Red Crystal, isn’t it?
Mr Sherwin —They are different. There is the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has specific roles and activities, but there would also be a local Red Cross-Red Crescent Society. They are different organisations, but they link up.
Senator JOHNSTON —You can see the problem that I have with us giving a sizeable amount of money, I think—probably $10 million or $20 million, and I am not sure how much Gaza itself is getting—in just tracking it through. From a taxpayer’s perspective, I think it is highly problematic. I would just like you to take some time to assure me that we have got some mechanisms and some safeguards that ensure that this money is not being used for weapons, not being used to manufacture or purchase rocket-manufacturing equipment and so on—or funding television stations that promote jihad.
Mr Sherwin —In terms of the humanitarian response, which was $10 million provided earlier this year, we have gone into some detail before in the committee about the shape of that response and the organisations that provided assistance and were in receipt of Australian funding, including Australian non-government organisations. But I am happy to return to that detail if you want. But we would trust all those people to report to us on what they have done and achieved and trust that we are able to rely on their reports. Those organisations include organisations that the Australian public donate to, in terms of the non-government organisations.
You mentioned weapons. In terms of the specific clauses, we have our agreements again. That has been gone into in this committee before, and some written answers were given to questions on notice or questions in writing. We have specific counterterrorism clauses in our agreements. Also, in relation to what the World Bank funds through the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan trust fund, we have a donor agreement with them, which has counterterrorism clauses, and they have a specific agreement with the Palestinian Authority with respect to resources that they provide so that those resources are used for the purposes for which they are provided.
Senator JOHNSTON —The Palestinian Authority, I think, is fine. I am really not too concerned about the Palestinian Authority because I think there is an element of transparency there. We have got officials actually living on the West Bank. I think people can come and go to some extent into those various towns and villages. But Gaza is the issue. We have given a sizeable amount of money—well, I think it is sizeable, for the size and dimension of Gaza and its population. All I am saying is: what mechanisms precisely do we have, save for our trusted relationships and a few contractual terms, to assure the taxpayer that we know that the money is getting to where we want it to go?
Mr Sherwin —The reporting that we get would include audits by organisations who receive funding from us. We would have contractual agreements with them about providing reports, which we would obviously have to rely on because we cannot go into Gaza ourselves. Also, they would have to provide audit reports or financial statements to say that they have spent the money for the purpose for which it has been given.
Senator JOHNSTON —The bottom line is that you are saying that, because of the circumstances, we have to go forward on faith.
Mr Sherwin —I think it is a bit more than faith, Senator.
Senator JOHNSTON —At the end of the day, in terms of evidence, in terms of what we know is happening inside Gaza, we have to rely on what we are told by the Red Cross and other organisations which have integrity and which we think we can trust.
Mr Sherwin —We have no choice in terms of being able to go in and eyeball things. We just cannot do that at this point in time.
Senator JOHNSTON —Thank you, Chair. I do not think I can take it much further.
CHAIR —Are there any further questions on 1.3? No. Are there any questions on 1.4?
Senator PAYNE —I am not sure where my next two sets of questions fall, Chair. I seek some advice on that.
CHAIR —What are they?
Senator PAYNE —One set is in relation to the funding for what is designated as ‘responsiveness and accountability’ and the other is in relation to the R2P fund and associated matters. I am happy to be told where they fit in.
CHAIR —I do not think either of them fit under 1.4. We could probably do R2P.
Senator PAYNE —I was hoping Mr Davies was going to jump in and help me.
Mr Davies —The first one you mentioned is largely a Pacific related program, so we could go back to that if you wish.
CHAIR —Why don’t we go back to that and then we will go to R2P.
Senator PAYNE —All right. My apologies for that. I was thinking of it in terms of a global program. When I thought the other money was Pacific it turned out to be global, so I decided that it must be global in its own way. There is a component in the budget of about $138 million or so over four years relating to improving responsibility and accountability in government. It has four components, as I read it. When I look at the funding stream, it starts with quite small amounts in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and goes on to significantly larger amounts. Why is it structured that way?
Mr Dawson —I think the picture is the same with this measure as with a number of others where you have raised this issue. We have consciously tried, not just through this budget process but in previous budget processes, to ensure that there are good periods of time available to do proper planning and programming for these significant multiyear initiatives. If you look back through the 2007-08 budget process, the 2008-09 budget process and the current budget process you will find that it is a very familiar profile—measures start small and become larger in the out years. This is certainly no different to that.
Obviously, as well there are a number of budget measures which have begun in this budget process. There are commitments for four-year periods, but the sizes of individual measures take into account the funding which is available, the economic circumstances and the impact on the budget. Those things are elements in the allocation of particular funding to particular years.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you for that. Can I now ask a few specific funding questions about some of the initiatives which are listed in this area. The first of those I have already made passing reference to—that is, the five annual Pacific leadership awards. Will these awards commence in this financial year?
Mr Dawson —That is the intention. We have a process where we have been talking with the secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum around the nomination and selection of individuals for those awards. The forum secretariat is closely involved in that process, and it is our expectation that the announcement of those awards will be made at the time of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Cairns in August.
Senator PAYNE —Okay, so what does ‘closely involved’ mean? Are you kind of outsourcing it to them?
Mr Dawson —No, we have used Australia’s existing scholarship processes and leadership award processes in the Pacific to identify our broader field, and identify the number of particular criteria associated with Pacific leadership in association with the forum secretariat, and the decisions relating to that have been ones taken with the forum secretariat.
Senator PAYNE —How much funding is provided to the five awards each year?
Mr Dawson —I would need to take that on notice. It is essentially the equivalent of a postgraduate scholarship with an add-on training component or an add-on placements component.
Senator PAYNE —Can you take the detail on notice.
Mr Dawson —Sure.
Senator PAYNE —Can you list for us the other specific projects which I assume exist which will be funded this financial year under the program, and what specific projects will be funded in the remaining three years?
Mr Dawson —This financial year the funding stream which you identify it is quite small. We would expect that in the current financial year under this initiative, apart from the leadership awards that you have identified, work on the Pacific leadership program which has been commenced in previous years will continue, and funding would also be used to support work to strength and statistical services in the region. In future years we would expect that in the Pacific there would be funding to continue these streams, also around partnerships with regional tertiary institutions, and in future years there will be the other areas of activity that are identified in the budget measure descriptions particularly around work leadership issues more broadly—anticorruption efforts, public sector improvement, community based accountability measures.
Senator PAYNE —There is also a reference in the papers to a component which is intended to strengthen engagement between citizens and government, and there is some brief information there. Beyond the information that is in the ministerial statement, can you indicate to the committee how that is intended to be done?
Mr Dawson —This will be done through a range of individual country programs and activities identified that pick up on this sort of broad theme in a particular country context. It may be to support initiatives, everything from citizen report cards to work with media organisations around transparency issues, work to improve the information on government services and how those are delivered at the community level—all those sorts of initiatives, which are really social accountability measures.
Senator PAYNE —In reference to the third component, which is the anticorruption efforts you have also adverted to, it refers to selected partner countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Can you tell the committee which those partner countries are?
Mr Dawson —Again, the work on this is more likely to have substantive funding associated with it in years two, three and four of the initiative but, as you would be aware, in a previous budget under a previous government there was I think a one-year budget measure around support for anticorruption efforts.
That did a number of things, including establish anticorruption plans in seven countries. I might be pressed to remember all seven but Indonesia, Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were some of them. That work spawned a number of ideas which were definitely worth following up, including work around support for improved procurement processes associated with infrastructure work—for example, in some of the larger Asian countries—and, contracting guidelines et cetera in Papua New Guinea. There has been a range of work that has been done under that previous initiative, which has been continued through existing programs over the last year and will continue to be maintained. Where more funding is available in the subsequent years of this initiative we can expect that those programs will also be more significantly funded.
Senator PAYNE —Can you tell me briefly, Mr Dawson, whether any of this funding is part of current or future Pacific Partnerships for Development or whether it is separate from those?
Mr Dawson —The work associated with statistical services, I think, is something that is going to be particularly relevant to the implementation of a number of Pacific Development Partnerships. It is an area identified specifically in the case of Papua New Guinea. It obviously goes to the heart of how you measure development success and development outcomes. So across the region we are working with national organisations and with regional organisations around better data on development impact and development results. We would certainly expect that the work done with regional organisations like the SPC will be something which will be drawn into the implementation of Pacific Development Partnerships.
Senator PAYNE —I realise we are rapidly coming closer to half past six—
CHAIR —We are, indeed.
Senator PAYNE —which I understand is the time at which I turn into a pumpkin—
CHAIR —You do.
Senator PAYNE —in estimates terms, at least! Can I go to the questions I have on R2P in the time available?
CHAIR —You may.
Senator PAYNE —As far as I can see on your web site, Mr Davis, there is nothing except the minister’s press release of September last year about the R2P fund, although there was a speech given last week—I think it was on Friday—which gave us some new detail about that. Can you tell us when the agreement was reached with the Asia-Pacific Centre for Responsibility to Protect for the joint initiative with the government on the R2P fund?
Mr Isbister —I will have to take on notice the actual date that the agreement was signed with the centre, but I can say that on 2 May there was an advertisement in the Australian for organisations to apply for the R2P fund that is going to be administered by the centre.
Senator PAYNE —On 2 May, an advertisement in the Australian?
Mr Isbister —Yes.
Senator PAYNE —So you would have to be pretty sharp eyed. Did it appear anywhere else?
Mr Isbister —I am not sure. I would assume that it is on their website. I cannot confirm whether it is on ours, but I will take that on notice and get back to you.
Senator PAYNE —Why can’t you tell me whether it is on yours?
Mr Isbister —I am not regularly across everything on our website but I can certainly assure you that it is advertised publicly through the Australian and I can confirm, hopefully before the end of the hearing, whether it is also on our website.
Senator PAYNE —What is the deadline for applications?
Mr Isbister —The deadline for applications is 5 June.
Senator PAYNE —You do not know whether that information is on the AusAID website?
Mr Isbister —In terms of the closing date of applications?
Senator PAYNE —Yes.
Mr Isbister —No, I am not sure. It was certainly part of the advertisement in the Australian.
Senator PAYNE —Can you provide me with a copy of the advertisement in the Australian?
Mr Isbister —Yes, I can.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you. I am not sure if I asked this before—it is all running together a little. Did I ask you whether advertisements appeared in any other media other than the Australian?
Mr Isbister —No, but I can confirm that for you.
Senator PAYNE —They did not?
Mr Isbister —No—I will confirm whether or not there were any other advertisements in addition to the Australian.
Senator PAYNE —At the last hearing, when I discussed this with, I think, Ms Walker we talked about the $2 million allocated to the fund—$1 million from AusAID’s 2008-09 funding and the other $1 million to come from, as I was advised at that stage, the 2009-10 funding. Is that still the case? Can you tell me where in the 2009-10 budget papers I can find that?
Mr Isbister —It is correct that it will come out of 2009-10 budget and it will come as part of the commitment on the humanitarian line, as part of our broader building of capacity around the R2P and linkage to our humanitarian capacity in response of partners.
Senator PAYNE —Is the $1.8 million which the minister referred to in his speech on Friday for the Asia-Pacific Centre for the R2P additional to the other $2 million we have been discussing?
Mr Isbister —That is in addition to the $2 million—yes.
Senator PAYNE —So we are up to $3.8 million.
Mr Isbister —Yes.
Senator PAYNE —Can you tell me where that additional funding appears in the budget papers?
Mr Isbister —It comes out of the humanitarian allocation in the blue book.
Senator PAYNE —That $1.8 million, I think, is over four years. Can you tell me when they will start?
Mr Isbister —It will start the coming financial year.
Senator PAYNE —The minister also said in his remarks that the government will extend support to the Global Centre for the R2P.
Mr Isbister —Yes.
Senator PAYNE —What does that support mean in practical terms? Are we talking about money or staff? What are we talking about?
Mr Isbister —It is money; it is—
Senator PAYNE —How much?
Mr Isbister —It is $300,000 over two years.
Senator PAYNE —Is that the total support that he means?
Mr Isbister —Yes, for the global centre. There is an additional $470,000 for the global coalition for a civil society, making a total of $4.58 million.
Senator PAYNE —Anything else?
Mr Isbister —No, that is it.
Senator PAYNE —The money for the Global Centre for the R2P and the money of the global coalition for a civil society is funded from where?
Mr Isbister —It is funded from the humanitarian budget.
Senator PAYNE —Thank you, chair. In light of the time frame, I will indicate that I have further questions in a number of areas which I will place on notice. That concludes my questions this evening.
CHAIR —That concludes our questioning of AusAID at this stage.
Senator Stephens —Chair, just before you dismiss the AusAID officials, could I provide some information to the committee, just for completeness of the record. I understand that there are a few additional matters that could be addressed very quickly.
Senator Stephens —I go to program 1.7, which is on NGOs, volunteers and community programs. I go to the issue that was raised by Senator Boswell earlier in the afternoon. For completeness of the record, the guidelines for reproductive health and family planning services are with the minister for consideration at the moment. Just to ensure that committee members understand, from Senator Boswell’s questioning it could have been construed that AusAID officers would not know in advance whether and where money would be spent on reproductive health and family planning services. However, to be quite specific, those details of the additional money that is being provided by the government—the $15 million into the pool—would be outlined in detail in the annual development plans. The NGOs would then be required to report annually on the achievements, including any variations to those annual plans. So there would be a sense in which the government would know where family planning and reproductive health expenditure was going to be spent and delivered.
In terms of that issue, I just want to reiterate for the record that the government is committed to the provisions of the 1994 Cairo declaration on population and development, which states:
Governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning …
And it is the government’s intention to avoid terminations through family planning services as an advice as it continued focus of Australian funded services.
CHAIR —Thank you. Senator Stephens.
Mr Davis —I would like to make a couple of points. The Somalia conference was on 22 and 23 April in Brussels. Senator Johnston, on the Scanteam, the composition included three international people and three Afghanis, backed by a team in Oslo. They were in country twice, in 2005 and 2008.
Senator JOHNSTON —Twice in each of those years or once in each of those years?
Mr Davis —They were in twice, once in 2005 and once in 2008.
Senator JOHNSTON —Thank you.
CHAIR —I thank the officers from AusAID for attending this afternoon and being of assistance to the committee.
Proceedings suspended from 6.32 pm to 7.32 pm