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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1192

Food Security

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Can the minister advise the Senate what the Turnbull government is doing to improve food security in our region and how this helps to alleviate poverty?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:58): I thank Senator Back for his question. Food security is vitally important to our regional security. Some 80 per cent of the world's extreme poor live in rural areas, and many of these people are working in agriculture. Of course this is also the case in the Indo-Pacific area. Food security in the Indo-Pacific region is of concern on a number of fronts—due to pressures of population growth, natural resource decline, urbanisation and adverse climatic events. So, sustainable agriculture and fisheries are very important for food security in our region. Our aid program in agriculture and food security focuses on three areas: firstly, strengthening markets to increase market participation by the poor, with a particular emphasis on women's empowerment and making finance available to them to leverage private investment; secondly, improving productivity along food and agriculture value chains and promoting more efficient and sustainable use of natural resources; and, lastly, promoting policy, governance and reform to assist our partner countries to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth and open trade.

I want to talk about a couple of examples of Australia's agriculture aid investment, and this includes a $48 million market development facility which is working across five countries—in Fiji, Timor-Leste, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka—to strengthen market access for the poor. By 2021, MDF's work will result in US$68 million in additional income for a quarter of a million men and women, including almost 12,000 jobs benefiting almost 800,000 households. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, on a supplementary question.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:59): Will the minister outline how Australia's overseas development aid program is being used to support improved agriculture and food production in our region?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:00): Hunger places very serious constraints on economic growth and further entrenches poverty. It in turn affects the health of people and in turn affects health security and regional security in our area. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development recognises that addressing food security aims to end hunger and malnutrition and also improves agricultural productivity and sustainability. Many countries in the Indonesia-Pacific face the challenge of a triple burden: the burden of malnutrition, with its inadequate intake of calories; micronutrient deficiencies; and obesity. They all prevail simultaneously. These issues, combined together, create major issues of insecurity for health security. Consequently, investment— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, on a final supplementary question.

Senator BACK (Western Australia) (15:01): Can the minister explain how strong economies in our region contribute to regional stability, trade and business opportunities for Australia?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:01): In 2015, our Australian aid program activities resulted in agriculture and fisheries production increasing in our region by over US$57 million and close to 443 poor women and men adopting innovative agricultural and fisheries practices. So many of our region's poor are engaged in agriculture and therefore investment in agriculture is a highly effective way of achieving our aid objectives of enhancing prosperity, reducing poverty, increasing economic growth and therefore increasing the viability of and prosperity in our region. Strong economies in our region contribute to regional peace and security and offer increased trade opportunities not just for those countries but also for Australia.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.