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Wednesday, 30 October 1974
Page: 2134

Senator WILLESEE (Western AustraliaMinister for Foreign Affairs) - As the honourable senator knows, this is something new. When it was put before me as a new proposition I realised all the political dangers in listing the expenditure under this heading. But this was an area which had been largely neglected. It is true that those countries I mentioned todaythe Scandinavian countries, etc.- were contributing and had not been neglecting this area. But we want to direct this expenditure specifically to that area. It is only a small part of our whole budget. We are not directing all of the expenditure to that area. It is a question now of the most efficient way to incorporate the safeguards that honourable senators have mentioned today so that this money is spent for humanitarian purposes, and also the administration of it.

This is one of the problems. It arose particularly when we sent food to the Swahilian region during the African drought. It is not sufficient to say that we will send food, maybe made-up food, raw grain or something like that. We cannot have that food distributed at the other end, because we would have to set up a body to do this. In some areas we have been criticised. We have been told that although we get the food to an area, we do not distribute it. Honourable senators have to think about the problem for only a couple of moments to realise that to distribute food in some of the countries as large as the African countries we would need to have a transport system which would waste so much of the money. This is where the international agencies come into the picture in a very big way. As long as we can obtain an assurance that the aid can be distributed in the country concerned, this is what we do.

As I understand the position, we are giving the food or aid to organisations which distribute it around the world. We would be putting money into those organisations in other ways. Really, this small amount is being earmarked for this area. When the aid arrives at the country, there are small organisations such as the South West Africa People's Organisation which would distribute aid, for instance, to the Namibian people. We have to look at the position to see whether any one of these organisations would not be acting in this way. Frankly, I do not think that that would be the case. Providing that people are starving, want training or hospitalisation, I do not think that we will really worry which organisation assists.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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