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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 47

(Question No. 1564)

Senator Morris asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 5 December 1986:

(1) Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of reports that Mr Lloyd Edgecombe of the Australian Trade Commission has called for the use of Australian overseas aid funds to advantage Australian enterprises.

(2) Would such a policy be consistent with our foreign policy objectives and what is the government's view of this proposal.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) I am aware of comments made by Mr Edgecombe in an address to a recent AUSTRADE-sponsored seminar in Sydney, to the effect that the prospects for involving Australian industry in developmental projects in the Asian-Pacific region could be improved if more Australian aid funds were made available to assist such projects and Australian participation in them. I note that Mr Edgecombe added, quite properly, that the issue of Australia's aid priorities is a political question.

(2) In my statement on Australia's overseas aid program in Parliament on 28 November 1985, I emphasised that the Government encourages Australian industry participation in the aid program ``so long as equity and effectiveness remain primary considerations and so long as . . . the aid given [is] good for the recipient''. The Government has, quite consciously, three main objectives in mind in framing the aid program. The first and most important of these is to promote economic and social progress in developing countries, especially those in our neighbourhood. The second and third objectives of the aid program are to promote Australia's political-strategic and commercial interests respectively. The Government wishes to ensure that Australian industry participates in the provision of Australian aid overseas, and I am sure that most Australians would prefer that Australian aid is just that: goods and services provided by Australians.

The Government is currently reviewing some of its development assistance programs to establish whether they can better assist efficient Australian industry but still be consistent with their over-riding objective of promoting economic growth and social development in the developing countries of our Asian-Pacific neighbourhood. The results of this examination will be made public at the appropriate time.