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Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 135


Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (4:28 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

APPROPRIATION (TSUNAMI FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE) BILL 2004-2005

Introduction

As I mentioned earlier in relation to the bill to fund the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, the response of the key agencies to the tsunami disaster was swift. The tsunami struck on 26 December 2004, at the height of our holiday season, yet relief flights out of Australia commenced the next day.

To achieve this timely action, agencies diverted funding from current programmes. This bill replaces the diverted funding requesting a total of $131.4 million in new appropriations. This figure also includes a small amount for the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development.

Contents of bill

The great majority of the funding in this bill is for AusAID and the Department of Defence.

AusAID will receive $52.3 million, of which $1.6 million will be allocated to running costs for the Partnership. The emergency activities that the agency has funded include:

  • a civilian hospital in Banda Aceh, which performed 20-30 operations a day and treated hundreds of other patients with serious medical conditions, such as severe lung infections;
  • the supply of five medical teams to Indonesia, and one medical team each to Sri Lanka and the Maldives;
  • the delivery of four tonnes of medical supplies and eight tonnes of medical equipment to Sri Lanka, valued at over $1 million;
  • the delivery of 2.5 million litres of water to Banda Aceh; and
  • the establishment of a medium-term civil medical team at Banda Aceh General Hospital and commencement of rapid master planning exercises for the Banda Aceh health and medical sectors.

The Department of Defence is allocated $50.5 million in this bill. Our forces made a major contribution towards stabilising the crisis so others could take the load. They performed with a high degree of professionalism and demonstrated they can operate effectively in many different roles. Their key activities during the emergency included:

  • running a field hospital in Banda Aceh;
  • producing 4.7 million litres of clean water with water purification plants; and
  • clearing 7000 cubic metres of debris.

Another key agency during the crisis was the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for which the Government is requesting an appropriation of $17.3 million. The Department has been involved in providing consular assistance to Australians in the affected areas, the disaster victim identification process, repatriating Australian remains and handling the return of personal effects.

The Department also had to cope with an intense workload of queries from the Australian public about missing persons. It handled almost 15,000 missing person inquiries, up from 711 cases for 2003-04. In all, the consular hotline took 84,000 calls.

The Australian Federal Police is allocated approximately $4.9 million in the bill. The Australian Federal Police was also involved in disaster victim identification and, in fact, expended approximately $8 million on this activity in total.

In December 2004, the Government announced a package of assistance for Australians who were adversely affected by the tsunami. The package provides:

  • health and psychological care for Australians injured in the tsunami;
  • psychological care for Australians who are relatives of anyone who was injured or deceased in the tsunami;
  • funding to help meet the transport, accommodation and funeral costs for those injured in the tsunami and the next of kin of the deceased.

The Departments of Health and Ageing and Family and Community Services have responsibility for these initiatives. The bill requests appropriations of $2.5 million and $2.4 million respectively for these agencies.

A number of other agencies are to receive a total of approximately $1.4 million. They are the Attorney-General’s Department, CrimTrac, the Health Insurance Commission, and the National Blood Authority.

Close

Many of the agencies I have just discussed above put a great deal of effort into responding to the tsunami emergency.

The Government, however, was not alone in responding to the crisis. The Australian public raised over $280 million. The State and Territory Governments also deserve recognition for the way they have cooperated, including the sourcing of medical teams.

Given that agencies diverted funds to deal with the crisis, passing these bills will ensure that agencies’ ordinary activities will be able to continue to the end of the financial year. It will also allow these agencies to continue their work on the emergency for the remainder of 2004-05.

On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank everyone who assisted in the relief effort.

I commend the bill to the Senate.


APPROPRIATION (TSUNAMI FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE AND AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA PARTNERSHIP) BILL 2004-2005

Introduction

The boxing day tsunamis caused unprecedented destruction and loss of life in our region. This tragic event killed over 290,000 people, including 21 confirmed Australian deaths. The tsunami displaced 1.5 million people and deprived five million people of basic services. The devastation extended from Aceh and northern Sumatra in Indonesia to east Africa. Rarely do natural disasters affect so many people over such a wide geographical area.

With the magnitude of the disaster still unfolding, the Australian Government responded quickly and generously, announcing a $60 million package of emergency assistance to address the immediate needs of affected communities.

  • Five teams with over 100 volunteer civilian medical personnel, medical supplies and equipment were sent to Aceh—some of the earliest medical teams to arrive in the area;
  • A water purification plant capable of producing up to 480,000 litres a day was established in Banda Aceh;
  • A team of marine experts was sent to the Maldives to assist the Government in identifying damage to the coral reef structure and associated ecosystems; and
  • $2 million was provided to a UNICEF operation in Sri Lanka for child protection, health, nutrition and education.

To date, over 1000 tonnes of emergency humanitarian aid has been delivered by Australian Government organisations to tsunami victims in Indonesia, including food, water, medical supplies and shelter equipment. The men and women of Australia’s Defence Forces, our aid workers and diplomatic and other officials deserve the highest praise for this unprecedented response.

The compassion and generosity of the Australian public to the tsunami disaster has been magnificent. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, many Australians on holiday in the region gave whatever help they could on the ground. In addition, by 6 January, over 2000 Australians had registered to work overseas and assist with the relief effort. The Australian public has raised over $280 million to assist relief agencies.

Indonesia was particularly hard hit by the tsunamis, with over 124,000 people confirmed dead and over 111,000 missing, presumed dead. On 5 January the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the $1 billion Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development. This is a programme of long-term, sustained cooperation and capacity building focused on economic reconstruction and development. It is the single largest aid package ever made by Australia.

Taken together, Australia’s public and private contributions to the relief effort stand at over US$50 per head. According to a recent Reuters report, which drew a list of the private and government donations from each country around the world, this per capita response is the most generous of any country in the world.

The bills I am introducing today request appropriation for the Australian Government’s response to the tsunami. They request a total of approximately $1.13 billion.

This bill makes up the bulk of the package and requests total funding of approximately $1.02 billion. This includes the $1 billion which will fund the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development.

Another bill, which I will introduce shortly, deals with the bulk of the Government’s emergency response that commenced in December 2004.

Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development

The centrepiece of this bill is an appropriation of $1 billion for the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development. It is a 5 year programme, comprising $500 million in grant funding and up to $500 million in loans.

The Partnership reflects Australia’s desire to work with Indonesia to help that nation recover from the tremendous human and economic damage it sustained as a result of the tsunami. It lifts Australia’s assistance programme to Indonesia to a total of $1.8 billion over five years.

The Partnership will support Indonesia’s reconstruction and development efforts, both within and beyond tsunami affected areas. It will also support Indonesia’s broader development and economic reform agenda.

The partnership represents a new chapter in Australian-Indonesian relations, deepening already close person-to-person links between our two countries and taking government-to-government cooperation to new levels.

As a bilateral programme, decisions on the activities to be supported, the split of funds between geographic areas and between rehabilitation, reconstruction and development will be determined jointly between Indonesia and Australia.

The Partnership will be managed by a Joint Commission overseen by the Prime Minister and President Yudhoyono and chaired by Foreign Minister Downer and his Indonesian counterpart. In a desire to have a strong economic focus on the reconstruction and development work, economic ministers will join the Commission and I will represent the Australian side. The Joint Commission will set overall strategic directions, establish key priorities for funding, determine and review an annual work programme and agree on major activities.

The inaugural meeting of the Joint Commission will take place on 17 March.

Details of the bill

In order to manage such a large commitment effectively, the $1 billion will be appropriated to two special accounts created under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. By using special accounts, the funds will be separated from other aid money and can only be spent on the precise purposes for which they have been established. It also ensures a high degree of transparency and accountability.

The Minister for Finance and Administration, the Hon Senator Nick Minchin, yesterday tabled in the other place the two determinations that will establish these special accounts.

The special accounts will each hold $500 million. The first special account will be used to provide grant aid.

The second special account will provide loans for reconstruction and development, including rehabilitation of major infrastructure. Through that special account, we will provide up to $500 million in interest free loans for up to 40 years with repayment of principal commencing after 10 years.

The Director-General of AusAID will be responsible for ensuring that all commitments, procurement and expenditure for the Partnership are in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and all associated Regulations. Financial details, as with all special accounts, will be reported in the Consolidated Financial Statements each year. Progress with implementing the Partnership and outcomes achieved will be reported in AusAID’s Annual Report.

Rest of the bill

The bill also requests approximately $1.5 million for the Department of Defence, the Health Insurance Commission and AusAID. This amount will cover some costs associated with commencing the Partnership, so that the full $1 billion will be available for Indonesia’s reconstruction and development. The $1.5 million also includes some asset costs related to the Government’s emergency response to the tsunami.

Conclusion

The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development is the single largest aid project ever undertaken by Australia.

The initial priority of the Partnership is to support Indonesia’s efforts to repair the damage caused by the tsunami. Over time, it will help Indonesia strengthen its economy and institutions.

In 1907, a tsunami struck the Indonesian Island of Simeulue (sim-OO-lay). Afterwards, the people of Simeulue passed down through the generations a description of the tsunami through their folklore. This included the phenomenon of the waves following a strong earthquake.

When the tsunami hit Indonesia on 26 December last year, the people of Simeulue felt the earthquake and knew they had to run to high ground to find safety. Out of the suffering of 1907 came a legacy which saved lives.

Let us set ourselves a task with this new Partnership that out of the suffering and destruction from the recent tragedy can come a valuable relationship that will save lives and make a better standard of life for future generations of people in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia. The Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, which we propose to establish through this bill, is a huge step along that path.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Ordered that further consideration of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.