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Transcript of interview with Peta Donald: Austtralia Network: 1 December 2010: development assistance; climate change; Tuvalu government



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The Hon Richard Marles MP Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Transcript of interview with Peta Donald, Australia Network

Subjects: Development assistance, climate change, Tuvalu government.

Transcript, E&OE

1 December 2010

QUESTION: I know the visit is based on the government of Australia wanting you to talk to Pacific Islands for the delivery of aid for the Pacific Islands. How is it going to help us?

MARLES: It's broader than that I think. My trip here is a statement by the Australian Government - and early on in the life of the Gillard Labor Government - about how important we regard the Pacific region and how important we regard Tuvalu. If you look around the world, there will be times where various powers emerge and others decline. There will be various conflicts. But your neighbourhood is always your neighbourhood and, for that

reason, this is a very important part of the world for Australia. We regard our relationship with Tuvalu as very important and we were very keen to come here, make that statement and establish a one-to-one relationship early on in my role as the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. I think it's particularly good given it is also early on in the life of this government here in Tuvalu.

QUESTION: You are going through a review of your aid delivery system and there are reports of Australia accepting views of the Pacific for the review. How exactly is that going to happen?

MARLES: We are going through a process of looking at our aid budget because we anticipate expanding the aid budget considerably. We've made a commitment to increase our aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2015. What that means in absolute terms is the budget is going to almost double in the next five years, perhaps more than double in the next five years. That's a really significant ramping up of the aid expenditure. We think there is great work being done with Australian aid in the Pacific region - which is an important part of our aid profile - but you can always do things better. We are putting in place a review so that we have the best possible framework to increase that expenditure. We are keen to hear what countries such as Tuvalu have to say about the way in which Australian aid is delivered in Tuvalu. The precise mechanism for that will be worked out shortly but we will be keen to get written submissions, hear what people have to say and get a sense of the way this government sees Australian aid being delivered here. That's both in terms of ways in which it's done well but also, if there are criticisms, the way in which it could be done better.

QUESTION: Does that aid intend to be equally divided around pacific countries?

MARLES: We allocate the budget on the basis of need so that's obviously assessed on an ongoing basis. But right now, a quarter of Australia's aid budget is spent in the Pacific region. It's a very large part of our global aid spend. You can be sure that as we increase our aid expenditure globally that will be reflected in an increased expenditure here in the Pacific.

QUESTION: Climate change, you said you were going to talk about climate change with Tuvalu and other Pacific islands.

MARLES: We understand how important climate change is for countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati. It's an important issue throughout the world and has been very much on the political agenda in Australia. It was a large part of the agenda during the last term of government and will be in this current term. We are keenly aware of the particular vulnerability that is felt in a place like Tuvalu as a result of climate change and potentially rising sea levels so we're keen to work as closely as we can with Tuvalu and global forums such as Cancun. We know that your climate change minister Enele Sapoaga is on his way to Cancun and our climate change minister Greg Combet will also be there so we hope to work closely with him and hopefully get as ambitious an outcome as is achievable at Cancun. In all our global advocacy we are very aware of the needs of the Pacific. We want to be there to support the advocacy that is being undertaken by the Pacific. We saw that effectively done in the lead up to Copenhagen

and at Copenhagen and that's an important part of the international role we can play.

QUESTION: Australian government has been told by the Department of Climate Change, advised rather, to cut down further on greenhouse gas emissions in a report earlier this week, from 5 per cent to 10-15 per cent as required. Do you think that's going to happen?

MARLES: In Australia?

QUESTION: Yes

MARLES: We are working very hard to try and achieve those decreases in carbon emissions. We have guaranteed that we will decrease carbon emissions on 2000 levels by 5 per cent by 2020, with a target of up to 25 per cent depending on the way in which the rest of the world moves on this issue. I think the way we approach this now in Australia, investing in renewable energy, seeing that more renewable energy is being used to power our industry and our economy is very important for the future of the country. Placing a price on carbon, however that is done, is also very important. It gives the right market signals that the private sector and private companies use less carbon based power or at least manage their emissions in a better way. I think that's important no matter what happens globally in relation to a potential agreement. If you look at the way China is moving for example, they are rapidly moving to less carbon dependent forms of power and they're looking at powering their economy in a less carbon dependent way. I think this is the way of the future and we don't want to be left behind. So we are very keen to ensure that our economy is moving in the way that the rest of the world is. And when you put all that together I am hopeful we can achieve significant cuts to our greenhouse emissions by 2020.

QUESTION: I see, thank you. You also said you were going to talk about meeting the government that has just been formed and also look at how the budget process is going on.

MARLES: We've asked a number of questions about that this morning. To be honest we have been very encouraged by the way in which the government is approaching what is obviously a very difficult task. Framing a budget is never easy when the Australian dollar is high, when there are less remittances coming in through sea farers for example, that's a

function of the global financial crisis. All these things mean less revenue and it is difficult to put together a public budget in those circumstances. But I think it is important that financially we live in a sustainable way. I think that is understood here by the government and they are clearly working on making the necessary decisions to put their budget in order. That's very encouraging from our point of view.

QUESTION: So you've finally met the new government?

MARLES: Yes, we are encouraged by the way they are going. Obviously we haven't seen the budget, we're just talking in generalities with the government about the issues they're facing in framing the budget and that will all become public in the next few weeks. Like the people of Tuvalu we will be looking carefully at what emanates from the process. I have to say I was encouraged by the discussion we had this morning about the sincerity with which the government is facing up to what I think is a very difficult job.

QUESTION: I think I've asked all the questions which I've put down but if there is anything else?

MARLES: Just to reiterate that we regard our relationship with Tuvalu as very important. We both share the same part of the world and we are neighbours and friends and there is a deep affection between our countries. I certainly felt that today, particularly over lunch we

shared with the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and members of the cabinet and parliament. It was a great experience. One of the things we are keen to announce while here is that there will be 17 scholarships provided through AusAID to recipients in Tuvalu. That includes 12 scholarships to regional institutions, four to institutions in universities in

Australia and one really prestigious Australian Leadership Award. It is being awarded to a Tuvalu citizen and will involve not just attending university in Australia but also a leadership program. It's great to see the talent that's on the ground here in Tuvalu. It's great to be part of supporting that talent and I think the skills and the education that come from both scholarships will make a big difference to the future of Tuvalu. Indeed when we look at what happens to those who take up these scholarships, when they've completed their education, we're finding that most come back to Tuvalu and use their skills in the government here and in the economy here. That's great for the development of the country so it's really good from an Australian point of view to be a part of the program.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MARLES: No worries, thank you.

END

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