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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12908

Mr Albanese asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 23 August 1999:

(1) As part of a campaign by Jubilee 2000 Debt Reduction Coalition, are members of the public sending money in the form of cheques to him, via their local Member of Parliament, to be used to reduce foreign debt in Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs).

(2) What sum has been forwarded to him for this purpose.

(3) Has he used this money to reduce crippling foreign debt in HIPCs.

(4) Is the Government taking other measures to reduce the level of foreign debt in HIPCs; if so, what.

(5) Will he follow the lead set by European countries such as the United Kingdom in reducing the foreign debt in HIPCs by writing off amounts owed to the Australian Government.

Mr Costello (Treasurer) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) The money has been returned with the suggestion that the donation could be made to poor country debt relief through an appropriate organisation. Records have not been kept of the amounts involved.

(3) See answer to (2).

(4) Yes. The Australian Government recognises that the international debt of HIPCs is a serious problem and fully supports finding a lasting solution. At the recent IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings the Government pledged an additional sum to bring to a total of $A55 million Australia's contribution to HIPC, more than doubling its previous contribution.

In addition to support for the HIPC Initiative, Australia is a member of the Paris Club (an informal group of 17 creditor countries) which meets monthly to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the negotiation of debt rescheduling or, in some cases, write-downs of government-to-government debts in developing countries.

(5) By working through the Paris Club, Australia will provide bilateral relief to eligible HIPCs additional to the amount pledged at the multilateral level, which in itself is additional to the annual aid program.