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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10078

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (11:22): I have spoken about foreign aid many times in this place, highlighting that instead of foreign aid being judged by merely the number of dollars spent, the key indicator of a project's success should be what is actually achieved on the ground. That is exactly what Minister Julie Bishop's new aid paradigm achieves.

While there is no way of waving a magic wand and suddenly making all foreign aid more efficient and effective, there are a number of ways aid recipients, donors, workers, governments and the private sector can work together to improve the efficiency of our system. The cost of aid delivery on occasions appears to outweigh the aid itself, and in quite properly trying to protect the integrity of our aid system we all too often burden ourselves with the bureaucracy and inflexibility that can overwhelm the good intentions.

There are a number of effective partnership relationships to improve aid delivery ranging from public-private partnerships to the whole question of social entrepreneurship. At least 80 per cent of today's assistance comes from non-public sources, up 30 per cent from 40 years ago, according to USAID. It is estimated that from an initial investment of $2.1 billion in public funds, USAID was able to leverage an additional $5.8 billion in private funds and contributions.

From my discussions with Abt JTA, a private aid consulting firm doing some great work in Papua New Guinea, they believe that leverage is crucial. There has been little effort in the past to use the aid program to leverage funds from others and develop collaborative partnerships. However, there is considerable potential to do so. William Easterly, a professor of economics at NYU, believes that is it is important—especially for Western nations—to identify that development happens mainly through home-grown efforts. Easterly believes that the developed nations provide foreign aid and development programs through the lens of Western culture with a focus on significant bureaucracy and set approaches that do not involve the people whom the services are supposed to benefit.

While I was in Papua New Guinea at the end of last year with the Australian Defence Force, I was inspired to some extent by a discussion with Sir Peter Barter and Father Jan Czuba, the President of Divine Word University, about the benefits of institution-to-institution support as an effective method of aid delivery. Father Jan has focused programs within the university to be primarily health and education based so that PNG graduates contribute back to the community in areas that are needed the most. The PNG LNG Project, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Oil Search, has developed an efficient community health impact management program, which is a leading example of a privately funded aid program.

Significant improvements in facilities' healthcare delivery have occurred in the PNG LNG Project villages. There are many avenues the Australian government can take to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our foreign aid and, at the end of the day, value for our taxpayer dollars. The coalition understands that our aid effort should be focused firmly within our region, where Australia's interests lie. The foreign minister has also announced some performance targets for the revised program, which are: reducing poverty—by July 2015, all country and regional programs will have aid investment plans that describe how Australia's aid will promote economic growth in ways that provide pathways out of poverty; focusing on the Indonesia-Pacific region, increasing the proportion of country program aid that is spent in the Indo-Pacific region to at least 90 per cent from 2014-15; and empowering women and girls—more than 80 per cent of investments regardless of their objectives will effectively address gender issues in their implementation.

I would also like to point out that, while those opposite like to stand and complain that Australia is not spending enough on aid, we are now achieving greater aid results for every dollar spent under the coalition's paradigm than under Labor's reckless money-throwing approach. Even Bob Carr acknowledged that a nation cannot have an unsustainable aid budget. The member for Sydney committed Labor to spend an extra $16 billion on the aid program yet has not revealed where this additional $16 billion will come from. Labor even raided $30 million from the emergency fund for its blow-out on border protection costs. Yes, Labor was its own third largest recipient of foreign aid budget. Fortunately, the coalition has now restored this money. This shows how careless and irresponsible Labor is with Australia's foreign aid. Only the coalition can be trusted to deliver foreign aid responsibly and in a way that will see the best outcomes for each dollar spent.