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Thursday, 14 September 2006
Page: 74

Mr BROADBENT (2:17 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Following on from the Prime Minister’s statements about reform, would the Treasurer inform the House of outcomes of the APEC Finance Ministers Meeting in Vietnam and progress on international financial reform? What role is Australia playing in this progress on international financial reform?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for McMillan for his question. I inform the House that the APEC finance ministers had their meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, last weekend. Principally the topics for discussion were fiscal and on how countries would manage to pay for much-needed social services. Australia, as one of the few countries in the Asia-Pacific region with a balanced budget, was able to share its experience with regional neighbours and also its experience of paying off all government debts and establishing a Future Fund, about which there is considerable interest in the region as countries think about the future of their finances.

The meeting will be chaired by and held in Australia next year as part of Australia’s chairing of APEC in 2007. In addition to that we begin preparing for the G-20 group of finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Melbourne in November—the most important and significant financial conference ever held in Australia. The G-20 is a group bringing together the developing and the developed world, and it has given real impetus to reform of international financial institutions such as the Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Also part of discussions in Melbourne in November will be energy security and the needs of both exporters and importers in the region.

As part of my duties as chairman of the G-20 I was in South Africa yesterday. I took the opportunity to announce that Australia is prepaying 10 years to the World Bank as its share of writing off unsustainable debts by heavily indebted poor countries. That sum of $136 million was paid yesterday. The consequence of that is that no debt is now owed to Australia by any heavily indebted poor country. We have written off 100 per cent of all of those debts, and, as our contribution to allowing the World Bank to write off its debts commensurately, we have now prepaid 10 years of our contribution to freeing the Third World of unsustainable debt. We are one of very few countries in the world that have done this. We have taken a lead in doing it and I believe this is something that all Australians can be proud of.