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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5622

Mr McMULLAN (Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance) (10:36 AM) —Let me start by saying that we inherited an appalling system from your government. The government which you ran ran an appalling system.

Ms Julie Bishop —Not you, Deputy Speaker.

Mr McMULLAN —No, you. I understand the procedural point you are making.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—I know. So do I.

Mr McMULLAN —I am just saying who I think is responsible, and it is the previous government. We found that there was no system for doing any of those things which you just raised. We put in place a system that will put downward pressure on the use of technical advisers and what they are paid. We found there was no standardised remuneration framework when we came to office. We are now in the process of establishing a set of scales that will bring downward pressure on fees and allowances. You had none. We found that there was no system for checking the value for money question that you very appropriately ask, and we are instituting one.

It is true we inherited an appalling system, and we are in the process of fixing it. The percentage of Australian aid that was going in technical assistance for the period 1996 to 2007 was nearly 42 per cent. Since we came to office we have reduced it to 35. I do not think 35 is satisfactory, and I want it to be lower, but I do not really appreciate being criticised by someone who presided over it being much worse—20 per cent worse—without any system for coping with it, without any system of framework for remuneration, without any process for review of value for money and without any process of setting in place a proper review. We have fixed it a bit. We have reduced it from 42 per cent to 35 per cent, but that is not enough and that is why the foreign minister announced the review. We will review it contract by contract, country by country. We are starting with PNG and then the Solomons. By the end we will have a vigorous and robust system.

It is not fair to say that all these advisers do not do good work. Overwhelmingly they do. Overwhelmingly they did when you were the government. Overwhelmingly they do now. We think there is too much emphasis on it. I think it is at least 50 per cent a demand-side problem: that is, governments in the developing countries—and I have spoken to each of the ones with whom we are conducting reviews at the moment—too easily ask, and it is the first thing they ask, ‘Can you send an adviser to assist with this?’ and we too easily agree. I think there is a demand-side problem and a supply-side problem. It will not be fixed simply by a supply-side solution, so we are talking to the countries about how we manage the demand as well. It is a system that was hopeless that we are fixing. It will take a bit longer to fix it, but it is in the process of being repaired.