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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2905

Senator MISSEN (VICTORIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it correct that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has assessed Australia's foreign aid for the year 1972 at 0.59 per cent of the gross domestic product and for 1973 at the lower figure of 0.44 per cent? Is it a fact that the percentage of foreign aid has declined still further in 1 974? In view of the effects of devaluation and inflation, does this mean a further decline in foreign aid in real terms? In the light of the Prime Minister's talk to the United Nations on the need to close the gap between developed and developing nations, does the Government propose to do anything to improve its poor record in this field of foreign aid?

Senator WILLESEE -I am amazed that Senator Missen would finish a question with an allegation about our 'poor record'. According to the figures on international aid issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, last year we were rated fourth in the world. I hardly think that that is a poor record. Senator Missen gave some figures which indicated that our aid is dropping. The fact is that the Budget increased our overseas aid by 3 1 per cent this year. I have just had a document put in front of me. There have been claims that in 1 973 Australia 's development assistance expressed as a percentage of the gross national product decreased from 0.59 per cent to 0.44 per cent and that therefore Australia's aid program has decreased. This large decline is calculated on a calendar year basis and is due to the statistical impact at the time of expenditure. It is not uncommon that uneven half-yearly disbursements occur. The figure bears no relation to calculations on a fiscal year basis, which is the only meaningful way of assessing aid expenditure. On a fiscal year basis Australia's aid performance rose from $2 17m in 1972-73 to $259m in 1973-74, an increase of $42m or 19 percent, and the extra funds spent will appear in the 1974 calendar year statistics. Australia's development assistance expressed as a percentage of the GNP slightly increased from 0.53 per cent in 1972-73 to 0.54 per cent in 1973-74. It was announced in the Budget that our aid will approach 0.6 per cent in 1974-75.

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