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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 783

International Development Assistance

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:53): My question is to the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Turnbull government is working to improve health outcomes in our region?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:53): I thank Senator Back for his question. The Turnbull government is committed to helping build strong health systems in our region because, by supporting our neighbourhood, we are responding to health threats. Health security is very important to regional security. Over the next four years, Australia will contribute $250 million to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is a public-private global health partnership. Gavi is an important partner for Australia in the fight to reduce child mortality and to enhance regional health security. Gavi supports vaccines that save lives and addresses the common causes of childhood illness and death, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and measles by helping low-income countries procure new and underused vaccines at globally low prices.

In Asian and the Pacific, more than 230 million children have been immunised with Gavi's support. That is more than 22 million children in Indonesia, 600,000 children to our north in Papua New Guinea and 80,000 children in the Solomon Islands. Many vaccine-preventable diseases no longer affect Australian children, but they are still too common in developing countries, including in our own neighbourhood. We do not want them back in our country. Therefore, our commitment is essential. It is also excellent value for money. For every dollar that Australia has committed to Gavi, it has provided $12 to countries in Asia and the Pacific. Since 2001, Gavi has committed $3 billion to vaccine support— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, a supplementary question.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:55): The Australian community can be proud of those statistics. Can the minister outline the importance of partnering with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in health outcomes across our region?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:55): We value our partnership with Gavi because of the work that it does with the private sector. It reduces prices and ensures supply of quality vaccines to countries that need them the most. Private sector engagement is essential as part of our successful results in increasing our aid in the region and our aid effort broadly in the Indo-Pacific.

In addition to the financial contribution that we have made to Gavi, we are also a very active member of the Gavi board where we advocate for the interests of the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that Gavi's operations are both effective and efficient. It is policies like these that help developing countries. It helps to keep their children free from vaccine-preventable diseases and, in turn, helps their self-sufficiency. So this is very important to sustained economic growth and poverty reduction— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, a final supplementary question.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:56): Can the minister explain how supporting Gavi helps to protect Australia's health standards?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:57): Our investment in Gavi is an investment in Australia's health security and the health security and economic prosperity of our region. There is growing evidence that child immunisation can improve both the social and the economic progress of a country. Healthier children will attend school, remain in school longer and, by attending school, they will learn more and therefore assist in the economic—

Senator Singh: Why did you cut the aid funding, then?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I will take that interjection. We were not ones the ones who cut the aid.

Senator Wong: Do not lie!

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: You went and took $750 million out of the aid budget and put it into your failed border protection policy.

Senator Wong: Do not lie!

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: So do not come in here and tell us that we have taken out of the aid budget. You—

The PRESIDENT: Please direct your comments to the chair, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Senator Brandis, on a point of order.

Senator Brandis: Senator Wong is simply screaming interjections across the chamber, Mr President. As you must have heard, and as I am sure everyone else in the chamber heard, she has used consistently unparliamentary language in interjecting against Senator Fierravanti-Wells. She should be required to withdraw. Indeed, she should be required to apologise.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, on the point of order.

Senator Wong: Mr President, the minister is misleading the Senate—$11 billion was cut by this government—

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point, Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: She should not be allowed to mislead—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, that is a debating point. There are other ways of addressing that. Senator Wong, I did not hear the comment that has been purported that you—

Senator Wong: I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: When Labor were in government, they diverted $750 million from the aid budget to pay for their border protection blow-out, making the Gillard government the third largest recipient of Australian foreign aid. In the 15 months prior to the 2013 election, the former government— (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann, on a point of order.

Senator Cormann: I am sitting very close to Senator Fierravanti-Wells and I cannot hear what she is saying because of the disorderly interjections that are coming from the Leader of the Opposition. I would ask you to call her to order.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fierravanti-Wells's time had expired.