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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6293


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (10:45): Senator Carr earlier made a wrong assertion, I think, that we had the $11 billion. Perhaps, Senator Carr, I can correct you on the issue of your allegation of cuts of $11 billion from the foreign aid budget. This all started when Tanya Plibersek, some years ago, started spreading fictitious and misleading information about your record on foreign aid. Tanya Plibersek repeatedly made claims that the coalition had cut $11.3 billion from the foreign aid budget. This is wrong. It stems from misinformation—lies—and projected forecasts under your own inflated fiscal mismanagement. Only those opposite can spread lies about trying to spend money that they didn't have beyond the forward estimates.

Let me take you through the history, because I keep hearing those opposite going on and on about this $11 billion. ABC's Fact Check found Tanya Plibersek's claim on Labor's own foreign aid budget, that Labor doubled the aid budget whilst in government, was overblown. Looking at real foreign aid spending, Labor's last budget showed that foreign aid, based on 2011-12 prices, increased from $3.5 billion in 2007-08 to a forecast $5.5 billion in 2013-14, which was an increase of only 55 per cent, not the doubling that Tanya Plibersek keeps harping on about. The reason I go back to this is that this is a lie upon a lie that goes back to 2015. Those opposite keep harping on about this when they know it is not right. Indeed, in an op-ed penned in 2006, Tanya Plibersek wrote, 'Our aid efforts should be focused on the alleviation of extreme poverty, not on short-term political gain, such as funding the Pacific Solution.'

I have to say to those opposite that this is hypocrisy writ large, because for a short time when you were in government you actually diverted money from the aid budget for onshore processing costs for asylum seekers. Indeed, you became one of the highest recipients of your own aid budget. The countries that suffered most as a consequence of that act were the very Pacific island countries that you are now coming in here and bleating about. I really wanted to put that on the record because, Senator Carr, you should go back and check your facts. When the ABC's Fact Check tells you that you have your figures wrong, perhaps you ought to heed those comments.

I have a final question for the minister. On balance, assertions have been made that this is not a framework that is actually going to benefit Pacific island countries. We have heard this peddled by those opposite. Can you, in your summing up comments, outline for us the actual economic gain that this is going to give to Pacific island countries?