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Consideration in Detail Budget 2012/13 - AusAid: speech



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Speech - Consideration in Detail Budget 2012/13 - AusAid Posted on Jun 20, 2012

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (12:49): Minister, it has been well documented that the government is proposing to save $2.9 billion by deferring by one year the foreign aid target of 0.5 per cent of GNI. Can the minister advise the Committee of the process or criteria that were used to determine which regions or program line items that were previously projected across have been reduced or deferred? The reason I ask this is that it is not an across-the-board deferral of aid spending on countries and regions; some have been deferred but some have actually had an increase in the appropriation above what was projected in last year’s budget. In the context of deferring increases in aid spending, why has this year been chosen as the year in which we need to join the Asia Development Bank?

I want to also refer to scholarships, particularly those scholarships funded by AusAID that are offered to overseas students in developing countries to study. Can the minister advise whether there is a requirement that these students have to study at Australian universities or educational institutions? If not, why not? Is there a requirement for the students to return and work in their country of origin once they have finished their degree or their qualification? The minister may have to take this on notice, but can he provide a breakdown of intended countries of origin by student for these programs in 2012-13 and the degree courses and a breakdown of the Australian universities and institutions that they attend? Can he also explain the process that AusAID uses for determining which countries and students will be selected? What will the level of scholarships provided to the Palestinian authority be in 2012 and 2013?

On general aid, what will be the total amount of foreign aid funding provided to Libya for 2012-13? Minister Carr recently announced on his trip to Burma that there would be an increase in foreign aid spending in Burma. Will there also be an increase in the current staffing levels in the foreign aid area and, if so, what will those levels be?

Moving onto the $5 million donation that AusAID has given to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust, can the minister advise what measures AusAID will take to ensure that all funds are administered to the trust and that they will be spent according to the AusAID charter?

On the ongoing issue of AusAID funding going to organisations with links to terrorists, even though it appears that nothing illegal has occurred, AusAID admitted during evidence that it is undisputed fact that persons on the board of the UWAC, which receives funding through an NGO from AusAID, are formerly convicted terrorists who have served time in jail for terrorism and have links to the PFLP, which is a well-known terror group. There are also other persons with links to terrorism on the UWAC board. Can the minister advise whether it is the Australian government’s view that this situation is acceptable? Has the minister had any concerns raised with him by Labor backbenchers on this specific issue, in particular the member for Melbourne Ports? What does the government consider to be a link to a terrorist organisation? Just because it might be legal does not mean that there is not a link.

I want to also ask about an article that appeared in the Australian yesterday. It refers to an independent review obtained under FOI commissioned by AusAID—and I have that report with me now—into the child protection policy that was implemented in 2008. The article alleges that there has been a surge in abuse complaints. There were 11 last year compared to only four in the first year and authorities expect this trend to continue. Minister, can you advise whether this is correct? The article also states that of the 20 complaints made over the last four years, eight were substantiated—all last year—involving staff of a non-government organisation working with AusAID in another country while five were found to be outside the scope of the policy. Minister, can you advise whether all of the eight complaints were about one single NGO and what investigations the department has initiated? The article alleges that the report also questions why the department appears to put concerns of negative publicity ahead of concerns for alleged victims. This is a very serious allegation, Minister. Can you indicate whether you will release the report publicly? Will you commit to implementing all of the recommendations of the review and indicate a time frame? Will the government be providing an official response to the report and, if so, when?