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Monday, 25 February 2013
Page: 781


Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (20:22): I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the responses by Minister Bob Carr to resolutions of the Senate in relation to malaria, and global hydro fluorocarbons phase-out; and access to sanitation.

Leave granted.

Senator RHIANNON: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The responses from the Foreign Minister, Mr Bob Carr on these two resolutions of the Senate were quite informative. The response about water and sanitation contained useful information—the amount of money that Australia is spending; there will be an estimated $1 billion spent on water, sanitation and hygiene activities from 2012 to 2016—and the needs of women in particular are clearly noted.

It is worth noting that is estimated that less than 50 per cent of the people across Africa have access to improved sanitation. That certainly is, in part, a good news story. But there is something that needs to be noted here, because it is a disturbing trend that could continue—that is, the aid budget to Africa has now decreased.

The situation that we now find ourselves in is that the Australian government has chosen to divert $375.1 million of ODA money. And, yes, I know it can still be classified as ODA, but it is not going to the many programs that communities in many low-income countries were expecting. That money is going to detention centres in Australia. In Africa, where there is a clear need for much more money to be spent on water and sanitation programs, we see that there has been a decrease in money in sub-Saharan Africa of $34.9 million. When you look at all of Africa, it is even more than that. I think that is a very disturbing trend.

With regard to the minister's response about malaria and some of the global funding issues, again there is some good news there. What we read is that there is more money now being allocated for malaria programs. There was a very good initiative that AusAID undertook at the end of 2012, with a very large conference; the government committed more money. That is particularly welcome news because of the growing challenge of how to contain drug-resistant malaria. Again, there is a lot of good news in this.

However, when you look at the funding for Pacific countries, you see the drop in the amount of money that has just been announced, again because of this shift of $375.1 million into programs in detention centres in Australia. For the Pacific we are seeing a drop in ODA of $51.4 million.

That becomes very serious for a country like Papua New Guinea which has a very high rate of malaria. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the PNG population is at risk of malaria and about 1.9 million cases are reported every year. There is a similar trend across the Pacific and there is increasing concern that with climate change we will see more cases of people diagnosed with malaria. Malaria has always been endemic in parts of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. With the changing impact on ecosystems because of climate change impacting on humidity, higher temperatures and rainfall levels we could see malaria zones in the Pacific increase.

I think that puts an added burden on Australia not to divert our aid money in this way but rather to ensure that we allocate more money for the people of this region. Yes, it was good news that the conference was held and the allocation was made. But it was bad news that overall the ODA—the Overseas Development Assistance—budget has been cut by such a sizeable amount to countries in the Pacific.

Question agreed to.