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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26749

Mr JENKINS (1:32 PM) —The motion sponsored by the honourable member for McPherson gives the House an opportunity to discuss something which is very important if we are to achieve world peace. The eradication of poverty and hunger must be the utmost aim if we are to achieve that worthwhile goal. The work of the World Food Program is, quite rightly, acknowledged by this debate. Over its 40 years of existence the World Food Program has done quite a lot. In 2002, it assisted 72 million people in 82 countries. In its 40 years of existence it has invested something in the order of $US27.8 billion and has contributed more than 43 million tonnes of food to combat hunger and promote economic and social development and provide relief assistance in emergencies throughout the world.

But, despite that, the challenge is quite enormous and continues. In 2000, under the UN umbrella, 189 countries endorsed eight millennium development goals. The first of these was to halve the number of poor and hungry people by 2015. If we look at the progress three years on, much of this dream remains unfulfilled. In order to achieve the goal, the number of hungry people must be reduced by 24 million people each year from now until 2015—almost 10 times the pace achieved since the early 1990s. Simply put, in the 45 minutes allotted to this debate today something like 750 people will die because of hunger. We need to support the United Nations World Food Program. We need to support their work to give people a chance to break the cycle of daily deprivation, to encourage education, self-sufficiency and stability, to help refugees return home and to give children the chance to escape exploitation.

Last December, in a delegation led by you, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, I visited two projects sponsored by the World Food Program in urban Jakarta. They were samples of the work that the World Food Program does which give an indication of its importance. In Jakarta, behind the streetscape that gives some image of prosperity, we found the slums beside the river in Cipinang Besar Salatan. We saw the work of the implementing partner—a non-government organisation known as PaRaM, or Food for Poor People. We saw the way in which the 600 or so families that lived in this area received subsidised rice. But importantly, the undernourished children that lived in the community were given a soy based nutrition supplement and mothers were given assistance through a nutrition program. We also went to a slum that, chillingly, was erected in a cemetery in Menteng Atas, where the dwellings were over graveyards. Here, a consortium called the Consortium for the Empowerment of the Poor is the implementing partner. Here, it tries to give some self-sufficiency to those people that find themselves as urban poor or internally displaced people.

This type of work, to which Australia has contributed funding, is very important, even in a near neighbour of ours such as Indonesia. As has been discussed in this debate, even though the World Food Program as a multilateral effort under the auspices of the United Nations is most important, regrettably, I suppose, each of the contributing nations needs to have a look at the way in which they can increase their contribution. Whilst it is acknowledged that Australia contributes to the World Food Program, regrettably the $31 million that will go to the WFP this financial year is a figure that indicates the way in which our support is tracking downwards from 1996-97, when it was nearly $54 million, and its peak in 2000-01, when it was $92 million. The percentage of GDP that is devoted to overseas development aid in total is now 0.25 per cent. This is down from a peak in 1974-75 of half a per cent of GDP and 0.32 per cent in 1995-96. The ALP's national platform accepts the internationally agreed aid target of 0.7 per cent of GNP, but, in the interim, Labor hopes to go, as quickly as circumstances permit, back to the 1995-96 target of 0.32 per cent of GNP. This criticism is not only of the present administration; I acknowledge that the Labor government that I was a member of reduced this aid—(Time expired)