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Democrats to ALP: don't forget big picture on foreign policy.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA THURSDAY JULY 5 2007

SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESPERSON

DEMOCRATS TO ALP: DON'T FORGET BIG PICTURE ON FOREIGN POLICY

The Australian Democrats have welcomed the Opposition's commitment to boost levels of development assistance but note that it is still less than the level required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

"The ALP commitment to increase aid to 0.5 percent of GDP by 2015-16 is a step further than the Prime Minister's announcement of a doubling of aid funding by 2010, which will then translate to a level of 0.36 percent. So on that basis, we welcome the ALP policy," Democrats Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

"It is curious though that Mr Rudd is apparently so concerned with the Millennium Development Goals and yet his aid-spending target is less than the 0.7 percent of GDP estimated by the UN to be required for those Goals to be achieved.

"Both the ALP and the Government should explain why they are not willing to set a firm date for aid spending to reach 0.7 percent when that level was agreed to in-principle back in 1970 and reaffirmed in 2002 as part of the Millennium Development Goal process.

"If there is not the political will to raise our overseas aid to that level now, with the Budget in surplus and the economy performing strongly, it is unlikely there ever will be," Senator Stott Despoja said.

The Democrats welcomed the ALP's focus on the South Pacific region. "We agree that the break-downs in law and order in East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia are due largely to a lack of economic opportunity and poor social services," Senator Stott Despoja said.

"A review of aid spending shows some $330 million in debt relief to Iraq, and other amounts for refugee processing and security cooperation. These activities will not make a lasting impact on a developing community’s prospects like the basics of life - clean water and sanitation, quality healthcare, good education, sound infrastructure, and the opportunity to earn a decent wage.

"We agree with the ALP that focusing resources on these needs will reduce the demands on Australian troops and police in the long-run.

"It is essential, however, that this new focus does not signal that an ALP Government would shift away from participating in multilateral efforts.

"The UN can be a very powerful agent for positive change but it is in desperate need of reform to become more responsive and effective.

"As a respected member of the international community, Australia is in a good position to agitate for these reforms and I am disappointed that the ALP's recent statements do not appear to recognise this as a priority," Senator Stott Despoja said.

Media contact: Raina Hunter - 0417 085 260