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Monday, 20 June 2005
Page: 184

Mr McMULLAN (8:04 PM) —I seek some information from the parliamentary secretary about the attitude the Australian government has taken and is proposing to take with regard to the great international debate, led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom, about the establishment of an international finance facility. There is a proposal that is going before the G8 this week and it is being debated at the IMF and the World Bank and other such fora. This proposal is related to the need to mobilise funds to meet the millennium development goals, which Australia signed on to when they were dealt with at the Millennium Summit in 2000 and about which there has subsequently been a lot of international debate. The general acceptance is that there is a need to mobilise substantially more resources from the international community to meet these goals which, broadly put, are about fighting global poverty.

Some part of the responsibility for this lies in the foreign affairs department and relates to ODA matters, but I am not going there. I want to go to those matters that relate to the Treasurer’s responsibility and to the Treasury portfolio. It is very difficult to find what, if anything, Australia has said about this important debate, although we have been at a large number of meetings where communiques have been issued. I assume that means we have agreed, but we have not heard anything about it back home. It is hard to find in the budget, or in any other set of statements made by the Australian government, where any resources might be to meet in future years the implications of any support Australia might give to this proposition—and I think we should support it.

As I understand it, the proposal for an international finance facility has been considered at, amongst other meetings, the G20, the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting—or perhaps it was the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, but I think it was Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting—the IMF and the World Bank, at all of which the Australian government is represented by the Treasurer. Also, there has been some consideration of it, as I understand it, at the OECD. In any event, I will come back to some OECD comments about this.

I understand that in September 2003 there was an IMF communique from the Dubai annual meeting calling for examination of the merits of the international finance facility. I want to know what Australia said in its ministerial contribution on that occasion. I want to know what view Australia took and what advocacy it made. I am advised that there was a Commonwealth ministerial statement made in March 2004 reiterating support for the proposed new international finance facility designed to double ODA to $100 billion. I want to know what Australia said at that meeting, what attitude it has taken and how that has been reflected in any subsequent policies of the Australian government.

There were subsequent meetings in April and September 2004 for further consideration of this matter. I assume, although I have seen no written report of it, that that was also the case in the April 2005 considerations of the IMF and the World Bank. There is a general proposal about the international finance facility and a proposal for a trial based on an international finance facility for immunisation, bringing forward commitments to meet global objectives with regard to the global initiative for immunisation.

So I am seeking some information from the Treasurer, through the parliamentary secretary, about what Australia has said with regard to these proposals—whether, as is usually the case, the fact that a communique has gone out from these various meetings indicates that Australia agrees with it. If Australia does agree, I would like information about how we are going to meet our obligations. The OECD review of the Australian aid budget makes it clear that Australia is one of the few countries—one of only two, if I am correctly advised, although the OECD report says, ‘One of the few’—at the Monterey summit about international finance for development that did not make any commitment to increased ODA. If we have not made any commitment of that sort, how will we fund the obligations that an international finance facility will impose upon Australia in future years? (Extension of time granted)

In conclusion, if we did not make any commitment—and I am advised we did not—at Monterey before the international community and we supported the international finance facility, what arrangements do we have in mind to generate the finances to meet the obligation that that will impose upon us? If it turns out that we did not make a commitment to the international finance facility, firstly, I will be very surprised, secondly, I will be very disappointed and, thirdly, I would like to get some indication of why we do not support it and what attitude we have expressed about it at these various international meetings at which we have been represented, often by the Treasurer himself, where resolutions have been made indicating ongoing support for a proposition such as this or similar propositions.