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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6218


Ms JULIE BISHOP (6:54 PM) —I note what the parliamentary secretary had to say in relation to the attitude of past governments in relation to a United Nations Security Council seat. There may well be valid reasons for it. The point is that this government has not provided any rationale, any justification, for it. Excuse the cynicism, but no other government has otherwise gone against longstanding support for Israel in the way that this government did last year. The Rudd government voted in favour of two anti-Israel motions in the United Nations in 2008. It was very slow to withdraw its support for the Durban II conference, despite repeated calls from the coalition for it to announce an early withdrawal and for it to show moral leadership on this issue. The fact that it left its decision to the day before the conference started so that no message could be sent to other nations—and indeed it did not even bother to tell the Australian Human Rights Commissioner that the government had decided to withdraw—leaves one very cynical about this government’s motives.

I also draw the attention of the parliamentary secretary to the United Nations Security Council candidacy figures. I asked about the direct and indirect costs. He will note that, in the budget papers, the government is providing $11.2 million over two years for the bid. Is further funding required beyond 2010-11? What funding will be required for 2011-12 and 2012-13? If further funding is required, why is it not included in the forward estimates?

With regard to indirect costs, I also ask that the parliamentary secretary include the costs of the embassy at the Vatican, as the ambassador has said that one of his specific tasks is to lobby for a seat on the Security Council. Can that be taken into indirect costs, as well as the specific costs of the Governor-General’s trip to Africa, where she confirmed that it was part of her brief to specifically lobby African countries? Could we have those details as well?

The really big ticket items come under the umbrella of overseas development assistance. There will of course always be many good reasons for directing aid to developing countries, but it would appear on the face of it that the Rudd government has been very cynical about the timing of its assistance. For example, under the banner of economic infrastructure, aid is $11.9 million in 2009-10, $22.3 million in 2010-11 and then there is a massive increase to $166.2 million in 2011-12 and up to $253.2 million in 2012-13. This huge increase occurs in the years of the United Nations Security Council vote and clearly the increase is timed to coincide with the Prime Minister’s bid for the Security Council seat. Quite frankly, if the countries need aid now, why is it not being provided now? Why is it being provided in four years time? Can the parliamentary secretary provide any other rational explanation for this back-end loading of this funding to coincide with the Security Council vote?

Also, under the banner of food security through regional development, aid increases astronomically in the years of the United Nations Security Council vote, going from $38 million in 2009-10, to $53 million in 2010-11, to $143.3 million in 2011-12 and to $228.8 million in 2012-13. There is a global financial crisis, as we are reminded on a daily basis by the Prime Minister. If overseas aid is required, surely it is required now. Why is the government back-ending this funding to these countries in 2011-12 in particular? I ask that the parliamentary secretary direct his answers to this back-end loading of development assistance and food security through regional development.