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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8862


Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (17:37): I wish to address some brief remarks on document No. 6, addendum to the AusAID annual report, which of itself makes very interesting reading, particularly if you are a statistician or a mathematician. I am particularly interested in the primary document, the annual report itself. The past year has been an important year in the organisational structure of AusAID. In July last year, the government launched a new aid strategy, An Effective Aid Program for Australia. The annual report is the first since the adoption of the new policy. The report notes a number of AusAID initiatives, including a new three-tiered framework across all agencies involved in aid: measuring the progress of the aid program and the projected result, strengthening data collection to accurately track progress and a higher standard of quality assurance based on their value and the level of risk.

In relation to the first of AusAID's two outcomes—to assist to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development in line with Australia's national interest—the AusAID annual report states that the aid program during 2011-12 has met or exceeded all key performance indicators. Hundreds of thousands of people, the report tells us, have been helped out of poverty through employment and assistance programs and tens of thousands of children have been provided with relief. The doors of education have swung open to benefit hundreds and thousands of boys and girls in our region. New cases of HIV-AIDS are down and access to clean drinking water is up.

I note particularly the governance and integrity issues that the report highlights. In March, AusAID undertook a major restructure, and this restructure has resulted in the creation of a new Risk Management and Fraud Control Branch. Fraud officers were appointed to PNG, Indonesia and the Philippines. Improving fraud control practice across this agency has involved quarterly reporting to the Executive and Audit Committee, annual reporting to the Australian Institute of Criminology, mandatory fraud control training for AusAID staff in Australia and overseas and due diligence checks on contractors involved in aid programs.

With respect to external integrity operations, I also note that AusAID have had no judicial or tribunal decision held against them which pose a significant impact on operations and there have been no Commonwealth Ombudsman investigations. It is also worthy of note that AusAID has had just three assessments by the Information Commissioner in relation to FOI.

Finally, in the time available to me, let me say that the AusAID Transparency Charter launched in November last year has already led to greater visibility for taxpayers over how their dollars are being spent and what results are being produced. Let me say that I, for one, intend to take a close interest in the work of AusAID in the time ahead and also, of course, a close interest in the effectiveness of that agency's programs and accountability mechanisms.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Mark Bishop ): Senator Faulkner, do you seek leave to continue your remarks?

Senator FAULKNER: Well, I was not planning on it, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Senator Mason: Why not?

Senator FAULKNER: But if it would assist the chamber, as always, I am happy to help. If the opposition would like me to do that, well, I will just fall into line. So I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.