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Tuesday, 18 May 1993
Page: 748


Senator HARRADINE (6.16 p.m.) —I rise to speak on the Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill and the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill. The second reading speech on the Charter of the United Nations Amendment Bill was delivered in this chamber on 6 May, and I saw red when I read the following in the first paragraph of the explanatory memorandum:

The Bill's primary purpose is to allow the Governor-General in Council to make regulations implementing Australia's obligations under the United Nations Charter. It also provides for the imposition of fines for breach of the regulations and allows the Attorney-General to seek injunctions to restrain such a breach.

That really concerned me. As honourable senators know, I have been consistently pointing out in this place that much legislation and many decisions taken by the Australian Government unfairly and unduly rely on the external affairs power. It is important for this chamber and the Parliament as a whole to give detailed consideration to the terms of conventions and other international instruments, particularly United Nations instruments, entered into by the Government. Once the Government relies on its external affairs power, the subsequent legislation passed as a result thereof is binding, notwithstanding the decisions and legislation of the various States.

  All senators will know that I have given notice of motion to establish a standing committee on treaties. All treaties entered into or to be entered into by the Government—their implications for Commonwealth laws, State laws and even local government regulations—should be referred to that committee. I am reinforced in my intention to pursue that notice of motion during this Parliament because two weeks ago 30 or 40 treaties were dumped on the table. I stand to be corrected on the number but it was a very substantial number, and we have five minutes to debate each of those in this chamber.

  Amongst those treaties were the ILO Convention concerning Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer and the ILO Convention concerning Protection of Facilities to be Afforded to Workers' Representatives in the Undertaking. Those two treaties are important, given the unfortunate predilection of some people in the Government to consider that awards will somehow end up as safety nets, and workers in those nets will find themselves trapped. I wanted to have a very serious look at those particular conventions. The Convention for the Mutual Recognition of Inspections in respect of the Manufacture of Pharmaceutical Products is another important treaty. Do we take for granted the inspection procedures that operate in certain countries, including the UK where a number of these measures are considered by non-elected elites? I feel a number of treaties should be the subject of detailed scrutiny by the Parliament, the elected representatives of the people.

  The explanatory memorandum to this Bill states that the primary purpose of the Bill is to allow the Governor-General-in-Council to make regulations implementing Australia's obligations under the United Nations charter. But I observe that the Bill is restricted to the obligation to abide by sanctions imposed by the Security Council against states which are determined to have breached or threaten to breach international peace and security. In recent times, such sanctions have been imposed against Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia—Serbia and Montenegro. The explanatory memorandum further points out that resolutions imposing such sanctions generally decide that states shall prevent trade and other specified transactions with the offending state.

  This Bill intends to enable the Governor-General-in-Council to make regulations dealing with situations which fall outside the present regulatory framework—in other words, to make effective sanctions imposed by the Security Council. I can understand that and I can understand perhaps why that should be a matter of regulation. I understand these regulations will be subject to disallowance by the Parliament. Nevertheless, I am concerned about the precedent that might be established by this Bill. I would like to see that question tested somehow or other. I would like to hear from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans) during the committee stage some greater explanation of the intention of the Government and some absolute guarantee that this is not to be regarded in any shape or form as a precedent for the Government to make regulations in respect of other matters contained in other treaties.

  I turn now to the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill. These measures come before the chamber once every year. I am rather attracted to some of the points that have been made; that is to say, if it is at all possible our overseas development assistance should be on a coordinated basis, but on a basis whereby we have substantial control over the direction of the funding of particular overseas development assistance projects.

  In my view, this is not the case so far as the World Bank is concerned. If it is, I would like to know the answers to the following questions: why do we allow the World Bank to interfere in Bangladesh to keep workers' wages down? Why do we condone the World Bank's operations in Burma when the Government of that country, SLORC, is roundly and unanimously condemned in this chamber? Why, if the Government is so dead against a GST—and I throw this in for its response—does it support an organisation which is going around to every developing country and telling it to introduce a GST? A number of other questions also come to mind, one of which concerns the World Bank's absolute fetish about lending money for population control programs without examining the issue thoroughly and without any truly objective appraisal of those population control programs or their effects on the various countries.

  As it is a topical issue, I refer particularly to the World Bank's $US32 million program of population control in Papua New Guinea. It is ironic, is it not, that soon after the chief economist of the Bank of Papua New Guinea had made the observation that Papua New Guinea is a country with enormous natural resources and low density population, the World Bank involved itself in urging the Papua New Guinea Government to adopt a population control policy. Indeed, it is doing a little more than urging, and I think the Senate should hear this. In effect, it is saying, `Look, donor organisations should not give anything to the Government of Papua New Guinea unless it adopts a population control program'. I would like to read from an excerpt of the AIDAB appraisal note of that particular program.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.


Senator HARRADINE —Before dinner I was speaking to the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill, which deals with the World Bank, and I raised a number of issues for the Government to respond to. I referred to the involvement of the World Bank with SLORC in Burma, to the push by the World Bank to keep wages down in Bangladesh and the proposal of the World Bank for developing countries to institute a GST.

  I think it is handy that we have these debates to enable the Government to respond to some of these questions. There are far more important issues at stake when we are considering the World Bank and when we are considering taxpayers' money going to the World Bank. It is my view—and I think it is pretty well shared around the chamber—that, if possible, priority should be given for overseas development assistance to be more closely directed towards those projects and those countries for which Australia has responsibility.

  I was also dealing with the issue of the World Bank's fetish about population control. This fetish has manifested itself to such an extent that the World Bank has recently proposed and is implementing a $US32 million population control program for Papua New Guinea. It is called a population and family planning project.

  As is evident from World Bank documents, this project was not initially supported by governments at the national and provincial level in Papua New Guinea, but I will say more about that at some future time. The push for this particular policy is clear from the pre-feasibility study that was done by an Australian consultant to AIDAB, who indicated:

It is time, then, that leading citizens and foreigners seek to influence attitudes to and trends in PNG population growth.

The callous and disturbing nature of the population control program is reflected in a comment from the AIDAB report, the oppressive implications of which are far reaching. Paragraph 10.8 of the report states:

Overall efficiency of donor assistance would dictate against the allocation of resources to ameliorating living conditions in `stressed' and `peri-urban' regions until capacity to improve and sustain improvements is released by declining fertility. This strategy would recognise the Government's recurrent efforts in indirectly influencing fertility, but would not add to the resources so applied.

So what it is really saying to the PNG people is, `Get this population control policy off the ground or you will not get any aid'. That is an unfair blaming of the fertility of poor women in that country for the problems of that country.

  Papua New Guineans on the ground will say that their problems are manifest. They want more attention and money provided for projects such as vocational training and genuine health care. People in Papua New Guinea are dying of pneumonia for the want of antibiotics, yet the World Bank is imposing these sorts of policies on that country without—and this is the point that I made just prior to dinner—any real examination of even the economic aspects of such programs or their effect on long-term dependency ratios at a later date.

  In my view, it is surprising that the World Bank seems to take as given that there are too many people in, for example, Papua New Guinea. One argument has been that there are so many rascals and that this measure will somehow attend to that problem. Compared with the problems in Los Angeles, the problem of rascals in Papua New Guinea is minuscule; yet the city of Los Angeles is probably exceeding World Bank Third World population control prescriptions. (Time expired)