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Regional development in Asia and Pacific regions



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MEDIA STATEMENT

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THE LIBERAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA FEDERAL SECRETARIAT . '

STATEMENT BY THE HON. ANDREW PEACOCK, M P . , OPPOSITION SPOKESMAN ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Reports from Bangkok concerning an assessment by the United .

v> Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

. (ESCAP) indicate that the Asian and Pacific Regions in which we live face a critical period. Not only does this region have immense potential for growth and the creation of wealth; it Also faces the greatest problems with respect to food and population . of any region of the world. With these go the problems of

poverty, underemployment and unemployment, lack of education, proper shelter, health facilities and the lack of means for the realisation of the region's potential.

The urgency of the problem is dramatically highlighted in ESCAP's recent review of the situation. With seventy-three percent of the world's population - over two billion this year - this region must face its problems in a more coordinated and less competitive

way. As a relatively affluent nation (despite the economic deterioration caused by Labor) Australia must be prepared to take . a prominent part in cooperative efforts to solve these problems. No useful purpose is served by Mr. Whitlam and Senator Willesee

hiding behind vague and ill-defined concepts such as their . . "Asian forum". More practical and meaningful proposals are demanded by the present situation. . .

ESCAP has pointed to such problems as population growth, food shortages, stagnant flows of development assistance in real terms and trade problems. ESC/AP is reported to consider the situation to be desperate. It is apalling that in 1975 we are faced with a

report that hundreds of millions in Asia - in the Region we share - are living on the edge of subsistence.

Australia and other nations can assist in alleviating these problems. We are a major food producer and world trader and we have traditionally been a leader in the provision of development assistance - though in real terms this is in danger of declining

under Labor. .

It is essential now to coordinate efforts in the Asian and Pacific regions to alleviate these problems. There is too little . · ■ cooperation . among nations and too much competition so that . achievement remains inadequate. ESCAP' s report emphasises the .5·.: extent of the problems and the limits of achievement so far. Urgent action is required.

The Opposition parties believe that nations of the Asian and Pacific area ought to consider the formulation of a regional development strategy, This means simply the establishment of

clear priorities to all countries of the area and a better · ' . ------- / 2

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coordination of assistance, trade, investment, educational development, scientific research and communication so that maximum improvement is achieved with minimum waste and duplication. Countries of the region could together set such priorities and adequate process of co-ordination.

Nations such as Australia have a clear obligation to take the needs of others into account. But it must be emphasised that major food-surplus countries, cannot alone solve these problems - the oil-rich"nations for example should devote more of their

wealth to non-political international development efforts. Above all, this is a problem which can only be properly met by a better understanding of needs and aspirations and more effective coordination of all aspects of relations relevant

to development. This goes much further than development assistance or aid.

If our region is to overcome the vast humanitarian problems ESCAP has referred to, greater co-operation and co-ordination over a wide range of issues is an essential first step.

The Opposition Parties will, when returned to Government, explore such an approach with our neighbours to devise a strategy to meet the problems of our region but which we believe we can jointly solve. A Liberal Country Party Government will be

ready to play a constructive part in achieving this. / . , . ' . '

The challenge:to the Labor Party is to produce such a practical -proposal when ESCAP meets in New Delhi later this month. There could be no more appropriate action for the initiation by Australia of an effective strategy for regional development.

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10th February, 1975.

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