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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2759


Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the allegations that some 15,000 tonnes of emergency food aid to Ethiopia was diverted from its agreed target area of western Ethiopia last year by the Ethiopian Government's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, even though it was supposedly being monitored by officials of the World Food Program. Secondly, is he further aware that the Eritrean Relief Committee in Australia raised the matter with the Department of Foreign Affairs in January this year and has not yet received a specific reply from the Department? Thirdly, can the Minister indicate whether any investigation has been undertaken concerning the specific misuse of this food aid? Will the Government seriously reconsider directing food aid to the Ethiopians through the World Food Program until the matter has been thoroughly investigated, and direct any further food aid through Australian non- government organisations operating in that country?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am able to confirm that the Government is aware of allegations made by the Eritrean Relief Committee claiming that food aid provided through the World Food Program, which I will refer to as WFP, was diverted by the Ethiopian Government. These allegations are not new. Officials from the Australian Development Assistance Bureau raised the allegations with senior officials of the WFP during their recent visit in May of this year to Australia. They were assured by the WFP officials that the claims had been thoroughly investigated and were groundless. A report pertaining to WFP's investigations into this matter is being sent to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau. Australia's food aid program to Ethiopia is directed to specific projects and programs. This fiscal year the Australian Government is providing 16,000 tonnes of wheat to Ethiopia valued at $3.927m including freight . Of this amount some 11,600 tonnes is being used in an Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture land rehabilitation and reafforestation project in the Gama Gofa Province which is being monitored by WFP. The Government has no reason to doubt WFP's monitoring ability. In addition, officers from our High Commission in Nairobi visit Ethiopia on a regular basis and report on aid matters. The balance of the food aid program to Ethiopia is directed through Australian Catholic Relief and World Vision Australia to feeding programs being implemented by the Ethiopia Catholic Secretariat, involving 3,400 tonnes and World Vision Ethiopia, involving 1,000 tonnes. There would appear, notwithstanding the reports, which have quite understandably and properly given rise to concern by Senator Jones and other honourable senators, that there is no real foundation for the allegations being made in those reports.