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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1644

Senator BOLKUS —Is the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the call from the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a review of the Government's foreign aid policy to the Philippines in view of claims that Australian aid money is being used for corrupt purposes by members of the Philippines Government and the Philippines military? Can the Minister give an assurance that Australian aid will not be used for these purposes? Further, following the comments of the ACTU President, will the Minister also indicate what action the Australian government plans to take to ensure that Australian companies provide fair working conditions and adequate remuneration for their workers in the Philippines?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware that the trade union mission which recently visited the Philippines criticised aspects of Australian assistance to that country and the treatment of Filipino workers by some Australian companies. Our development assistance to the Philippines is concentrated in two rural development projects in Zamboanga del Sur and Northern Samar. The assistance we provide is carefully assessed in the light of our own special criteria and objectives, the basis of which is a genuine concern for the interests of the people of the country. We also seek to take advantage of particular Australian expertise. In giving aid Australia's concerns are twofold. Firstly, in response to widely felt humanitarian concerns we need to do something effective for those most in need. Secondly, our development assistance contributes to regional progress and stability. Cessation of our development assistance would only harm those we most wish to see benefit from that assistance.

Australia maintains a small defence co-operation program with the Philippines. At present the Philippines DCP is running at approximately $1.66m per annum. The Philippines program is, along with Singapore and Brunei, the smallest in South East Asia. The Government closely monitors the program with the Philippines. Under it Australia does not supply weapons or armaments. The granting of defence co-operation program assistance does not imply endorsement of all the policies of the recipient government.

As to the criticism that the operations of some Australian companies in the Philippines have been less than satisfactory, the companies have been criticised for the allegedly poor conditions they provide for their employees. In 1984 Dunlop closed its factory in the Bataan export zone, and it is that that has attracted the bulk of the criticism, but it continued with its footwear plant in Manila. In line with the Government's policy, the Australian Embassy has been closely monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines. The enforcement of Philippines labour law is, however, a matter for the Philippines authorities, who have shown some ability to pursue breaches of the law.