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Thursday, 4 June 2009
Page: 5762

Mr NEUMANN (1:51 PM) —I rise to speak in support of the International Monetary Agreements Amendment (Financial Assistance) Bill 2009. I listened in silence to the contribution from the member for North Sydney, which was characteristic of all we saw about the Howard coalition government—and he was a senior member of the government—sloppy, slothful, lazy and lethargic. It was not addressing the bill before the House; it was in relation to—

Dr Stone —Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order: that language was inappropriate and unparliamentary and I ask the member to withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member will resume her seat. The member for Blair has the call.

Mr NEUMANN —It was not addressing the bill at all. It was all right to come in here yesterday and make speeches about the national accounts, but the bill before the House deals with a very important matter. It deals with issues concerning our relationship with Indonesia, a country to our north of about 225 million people. Our relationship with Indonesia is simply vital, not just for our national security but also for our future prosperity. The member for North Sydney hardly mentioned that fact.

The Howard government was involved in this process of helping Indonesia as well. We are doing what we need to do as a good neighbour. One of the greatest stories in literature is the story of the Good Samaritan. It is a great story about helping those in need. The priest goes past, not helping the poor fellow who has been injured. But someone who has no relationship with the injured fellow’s culture or religion goes past and helps him when he is in need. We have an obligation, because we are part of a common humanity and a common world, to help those in need.

We should aspire to the Millennium Development Goals. We should do everything we can to help our neighbours. We do that in the South Pacific. If our neighbours are in need in South-East Asia, we should support them. If our neighbours are in need in Africa, we should support them. We are a First World country and we aspire to be a country that helps people and sets an example in the fields of sport, culture, economics and political development and democracy. If we are a country like that, we should and do have an obligation to support our neighbours in their hour of need.

In December 2008, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would provide US$1 billion to Indonesia as a stand-by loan to help ameliorate the effects of the global financial crisis should Indonesia need it. This bill before the House fulfils that commitment. The bill appropriates funds required for such a loan or currency swap agreement. In mid-July, Indonesia requested that a loan arrangement be put in place as soon as possible to boost market confidence in their economy and particularly in their financial sector.

The Howard coalition government did these sorts of things in the past. It entered into three bilateral stand-by loans during the Asian financial crisis—US$1 billion to help Indonesia in November 1997, US$1 billion to help Thailand in August 1997 and US$1 billion to South Korea in December 1997. The Howard coalition government did this, and I give them credit for it. That was the right thing to do in the circumstances, and we supported it. That is the reality. The Howard government did this when our neighbours were in need during times of financial crisis, and we supported it. We are, under the auspices of the World Bank, making a loan agreement. It includes contributions from other bilateral and multilateral partners, among them Japan and the Asian Development Bank. We are responding when our neighbour asks for it. What would we do if our next-door neighbour, our friend down the road or someone in our suburb or city asked for help? Would we turn our backs? We should not.

The importance of economic growth and stability in Indonesia cannot be discounted. It is simply vital. It is crucial, in the circumstances, to do this. The member for Higgins, the former Treasurer, said in this House on 25 November 1997:

This government has made its commitment to the region as a good regional neighbour, and also because of our commitment to Australian growth and Australian jobs.

That was in the circumstances where they gave money to South-East Asia. We need to do this because of our relationship with Indonesia. We cooperate in many practical ways on international issues such as counterterrorism, illegal fishing, people smuggling, climate change and interfaith dialogue. Security cooperation is enhanced by the Lombok Treaty, which provides a unique treaty framework for addressing traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

We have a very healthy trade and economic relationship with Indonesia. Our two-way trade in 2007 was worth $10.3 billion and two-way investment around $3.8 billion. As a country, Indonesia is extremely important to us when it comes to our economic development and the security of our people. Indonesia is a fledgling democracy, and if you go there you will see that the people of Indonesia take their democratic rights very seriously. They have campaign flags on their motorcycles, bikes and houses and proudly show which side of the political divide they support. You can tell which side they support by the colours of the flags, the banners and the posters.

We should support Indonesia and its democracy. We never want it to go back to the dark days of authoritarianism. We have supported them because they play an important role in our society as well. There are about 15,000 Indonesian students enrolled in educational institutions here, and they play an important role. If we want students from Indonesia to go back to their country and take up positions of leadership in the economy, in sport, in culture and in politics, it is important that we also deal with them and educate them. They make an important contribution to both their country and our economic development as they pay their way in our universities.

People from our Institute of Sport assist them with their athletics team and its aspirations to be the leading nation in the Asian games. They have slipped back in the last few years, but they aspire to be the best they can, particularly in the area of athletics. Compared to some of their neighbours they are excellent at athletics, but they aspire to be better in the areas of soccer, badminton, weightlifting and other sports as well.

We have also entered into a $2.5 billion, five-year development partnership with Indonesia. Throughout our relationship with Indonesia, we have supported economic development cooperation. Our interfaith dialogue, between Christian and Muslim communities, is important.

We have also signed a joint statement on climate change. We are helping them with the reafforestation and the challenges in central Kalimantan and also the challenges that they face with the decline in the number of orangutan in central Kalimantan. In the circumstances we are helping them also with their primary schools and their education funding. The Speaker and I have visited schools in Indonesia to see and discuss the great work that people there are doing. And it is not just in the schools—we are trying also to undertake reafforestation in central Kalimantan. This is important in terms of the challenges of climate change.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for Blair will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.