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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2904

Senator VIGOR(5.11) —I just have a very simple and short group of questions relating to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau. The Australian Development Assistance Bureau currently distributes its funds in both bilateral aid and multilateral aid through the multilateral aid banks such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. It has been brought to my notice by groups at various meetings that ADAB has not adopted any environmental impact procedures. During the Estimates Committee hearing I asked for some guidelines on the environmental impact procedures required in aid programs and I received a very general, Yes, Minister-type answer to this question. I would like to know in more detail whether any environmental impact procedures are followed when groups such as the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation and other Australian organisations are involved in foreign aid programs. Are the methodologies of environmental impact monitoring followed by these organisations? I have been extremely worried by some of the reports of certain destructive effects of bilateral projects. The projects that have been mentioned to me are the Golok River Basin project in Thailand and Malaysia, where Australian consultants have acted as advisers, the Bah Bolon River improvement and irrigation project in Indonesia, which was implemented by an Australian firm, and the NTT livestock development project in Timor. According to the people who have reported this matter to me, there is apparently no direct monitoring of environmental effects even of these bilateral programs for which ADAB is basically paying all of the bills. There is even less control where the multilateral banks are involved.

The other matter that was brought to my notice was the problem of the transmigration program in Indonesia, which is having very bad effects on the Irian Jayan forest and is having an adverse impact on the native populations. There is a real problem in this area. I would like a comment from the Minister of what ADAB, the Department or the Government intends to do to make certain that we do not destroy environments in countries that we are purporting to help. Secondly, what are we doing to examine the effect on the indigenous people in those countries of our aid programs?

It appears that Irian Jayan refugees in Papua New Guinea will have very little chance of returning to their homeland, which they call West Papua. What alternative arrangements is the Australian Government considering for a more permanent solution to this type of problem of settling people in that area? I have had recent visits from two very articulate gentlemen from that region who had been resettled in Sweden, which is really not a very effective solution, even though I commend the Swedes for their caring in this area. Is anything being discussed within the Pacific region to try to settle these people within the region that they are used to? This really is a problem. Will the Government consider inviting these people to stay longer in Australia so that the Papua New Guinean Government and the Australian Government, together with other Pacific nations, can find some permanent home for these displaced people in our region? We talk about refugees in other areas but we have a refugee problem right on our doorstep. Would the Government be prepared to continue to give aid, which is presently given to help Papua New Guinea, to look after these refugees in another Pacific country if a country were prepared to take them? Maybe we could use some of our economic power, some of our economic caring, to achieve that end. Alternatively, is a place being made for these refugees in Australia as part of our refugee migrant intake? I would like to know what is happening.

I have two questions: Firstly, what is happening about checking or monitoring that the bilateral and multilateral aid that we are giving is not destroying the environment in the areas in which that aid is given? Secondly, what are we doing about the specific refugee problem of the people of West Papua in exile?