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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 2408

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:30): Senator Moore has reminded me of what a wonderful job YWAM do. They are an organisation based in Australia in Townsville, the city where I spend a lot of my time, and I am a regular interconnector with YWAM and everything they do. They have wonderful premises in Townsville where they bring people from all over the world to train to help others in less developed countries. Their ship that Senator Moore has spoken about—very accurately, I might say—is a wonderful experience for anyone who has the pleasure and the opportunity of inspecting it.

It is interesting that I go and see my pathology people to check my INR every now and again. The last time I was in there, the nurse said, 'I see you have been out to YWAM.' And I said, 'Yes, how do you know about it?' She said, 'I have been on the ship once before, but I am going again in a couple of months time.' And I said: 'That is interesting. Just explain to me how it works. They accommodate you and give you meals and then you do your professional work as a nurse in the wilds of PNG, particularly in the southern and western provinces?' She said: 'No, I actually pay to go on board. I actually pay for the accommodation and the food and donate my services.' But she said, 'It's such a wonderful experience.' And it is a way Australian medical people and even non-medical people can actually get onto the ground in PNG and do the work. It is a wonderful organisation.

I spoke with them just last week. They came to see me in Townsville yet again and indicated that for the Commonwealth funding, which involves only $500,000 from part of the Australian foreign aid budget to PNG—the PNG government put in $1 million—they produce something like $6½ million worth of work on the ground directly into the villages where it counts in PNG. They are going to extend their operations. They have a second ship, the original ship, which has now gone around to the north coast of Papua New Guinea. They are doing this wonderful work in all of those places. We contribute some $500,000.

There have been rumours, as you hear in these sorts of things, that perhaps this money is being reviewed through the general things that happen with the foreign aid. I understand the funding is for four years. It runs out in June 2018, I think it is. Do not hold me to those dates, but the funding does run out, and of course the government is at a situation where the question is: what do you do with the PNG government? On what do you spend the huge foreign aid we give to PNG? How do we spend that? Fortuitously, I just had almost a chance conversation with Senator Fierravanti-Wells today about that very issue. Senator Fierravanti-Wells, in her portfolio position, is actually in charge of foreign aid to the Pacific, and that includes PNG. I had a long discussion with her and just emphasised that this is what we need done with Australian foreign aid. We need to make sure it does not go through the bureaucracies in whatever countries. We want to make sure that bits are not skimmed off the top and that it goes right to the heart of the work that we as Australians want to do in these foreign contrives, particularly PNG, for which I think we have a special responsibility.

The work that YWAM is doing is along with RRRC, I have to say—another North Queensland group that is very involved in the malaria program in that part of Papua New Guinea, which is only eight kilometres away from Australia at the top of the Torres Strait. That is another group. It is very important that we do get the aid direct to where it is needed. There have been rumours. There have been anecdotal comments about aid money getting lost on the way through. It is always a difficulty, but the YWAM approach is a magnificent one. All of these volunteers are working to make sure that the help goes to exactly where it is needed.

I thank Senator Moore for raising this. It has reminded me of the issue. I have written to the minister about the issues I was just talking about, but it is good to be able to join Senator Moore in congratulating YWAM on what they do. It is really a classic example of how foreign aid should work. I join with Senator Moore and send every good wish and congratulations to YWAM, their organisation and all of their volunteers who do so much work to help our neighbours in PNG and elsewhere around the world. Congratulations to YWAM.