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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7837


Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (11:16): I rise to speak on this motion and join the member for Batman in speaking in support of this motion. I was also on the trip with the member for Batman and the member for Paterson amongst others. It was a real bipartisan trip and one which I very much enjoyed. From the point of view of someone who has grown up in Australia and never been to a Third World country, I had the opportunity to go along and see firsthand how other people live, how these refugees are living in Bangladesh and how Australian aid is being used wisely. It was a good trip and I want to thank the members opposite and everyone on the trip for attending.

According to some of the statistics, there have been some 880,000 people from Myanmar flood into Bangladesh—700,000 of those in the last 12 months; 55 per cent are children under the age of 18; 52 per cent are female, which is pretty standard, I suppose; and 80 per cent are either female or children under the age of 18. The government of Bangladesh has done a great job accepting people fleeing persecution. That's a lot of people who have flooded over the border in the last 12 months, fleeing for their lives.

I had the opportunity to see firsthand how Australian aid and other aid from the USA, from Britain and from other countries is being spent. Save the Children funded the trip for parliamentarians and other Australian representatives. It was not government funded; it was funded by Save the Children and a private donor. We looked closely at what PLAN, CARE, Oxfam—and I see Kate Anderson, who was on the trip, is here today; thank you, Kate—BRAC and the World Food Programme are doing. They are all people with a strong heart for trying to help people and they want to see people live with dignity. I thank all those organisations and all of the volunteers that I met on the trip.

It was good to see what the World Food Programme are doing. I had a chance to speak with Peter Guest, who has been working in this space for around 20 to30 years. He was very knowledgeable and he congratulated Australia on the $70 million we have contributed. Fifteen million of that has gone towards food. The food that they receive is quite good, and they've been able to expand the variety that people can buy. They have a card which has credit on it that they can buy food with. Peter did mention that other countries need to do more, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the European Union where Peter is a national. I would say to the foreign minister, the Minister for Trade, the Prime Minister and their opposition counterparts that something we can do as a government is talk to those other countries and ask them to invest more in Bangladesh and the Myanmar people.

I say to people in my electorate: Australian aid is being spent wisely. I looked at the latrines that were being built. I looked at the water wells and the pumps that they use for fresh water. I looked at what Oxfam was doing around treating wastewater and, obviously, looked at the food program. We looked at the learning centres for children, which bring a lot of joy. They get a couple of hours each day to learn just like our kids do at school, but, obviously, it's not enough. We need to invest more in education, because not all children get to go.

What struck me was they obviously have food, clothing and shelter—and the groups I mentioned before are doing a good job there—however, they don't have things like lighting or electricity, and that can be a safety issue for women, in particular, at night. They don't have things that we take for granted like showers. If they want to wash themselves, they've got to stand in the rain with a cake of soap or go down to some sort of dirty river and have a shower there.

I want to say to the people in my electorate: Australian aid is being spent wisely and it does help people around the world. Our economy is continuing to grow. I'm very focused on jobs and helping my electorate, but I think we can also invest some of this money to help other countries, and I'm very proud to do so.