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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1749

This Year

In the forthcoming year we shall continue to concentrate our main efforts upon the Asian and Pacific area. This is desirable both in terms of the region's needs and Australia's interests.

The Colombo Plan

The Colombo Plan remains at the centre of our foreign aid programmes. Provision this financial year has been made for the expenditure of $52.7m on projects, commodities and technical assistance under this programme, an increase of 12.6 per cent over last year. The Colombo Plan's great strength and flexibility has been demonstrated over the 21 years of its operation and it has, in every sense, achieved maturity. Its birth was one of the early initiatives of the first Liberal-Country Party Government and successive governments have participated in its development.

The area of considerable importance to Australia outside the Colombo Plan region is the South Pacific. In May I announced in the House a new long term programme of $15m to be spent in the area between now and the end of 1975. This, the South Pacific Aid Programme, is never likely to be as large as the Colombo Plan but, being based on the same principles as the Colombo Plan, it will, I am confident, be just as successful.

Training and Experts

Under the Colombo Plan, and in our programmes in other parts of the world, we have placed considerable emphasis on the development of human resources. In some cases we have done this by working closely with the recipient governments in the development of and support for training and educational institutions in their own country. Details of some of these efforts are given in the annex to this statement. In other cases where it would not be appropriate to train them in their own country, because of the small numbers involved or the nature of the training required, we bring students to Australia for training in schools, in technical institutes, in colleges, in universities or in specially arranged courses. These sponsored trainees are carefully selected by committees established in their own countries, which ensure that the training sought is to fill a need in that country and that the candidate selected is capable of achieving what is required. We believe that when these students return home the very large majority of them make a substantial contribution to the development of their own countries. At the same time they retain a knowledge and understanding of Australia and Australians which has been a contributing factor in building the goodwill towards Australia which undoubtedly exists in the region at the present time.

During 1971-72 almost 1,300 sponsored students came to Australia from Asia, Africa and the Pacific area to join the 1,755 already studying here. Provision has been made in the Estimates for a similar level of Australian-sponsored training during the current financial year. Perhaps as good a measure as any of the value and relevance of our training programmes to the developing countries is the fact that last year 270 students studied in Australia under scholarship schemes financed by their own governments, many of them in precisely the same type of courses as are available under our aid programmes.

During the past year about 200 Australian experts have worked in various countries of Asia alongside the peoples of those countries. They served in a wide variety of capacities, for instance as engineers, doctors, teachers, mechanics, civil aviation advisers, foresters and veterinarians. We expect the number of experts to increase in the coming year, with the great majority of them working on the larger economic development projects of our aid programmes.

In addition to the officially sponsored students financed under our aid programmes, we also provide educational places for private students from Asia and the Pacific. These students pay their own fees and their own expenses of travel and accommodation. These studies are, however, supported by Australian Government subsidies paid to educational institutions, at a net cost of about $6.8m a year. We believe this programme has been a valuable adjunct to our official aid programme, but it is here that some criticism has arisen. These students select their own courses from a wide range of studies which it is believed will be of value to them and their countries. However, they are freer agents than the officially sponsored students and do not have to meet quite the same, highly selective standards as the scholarship students. It is perhaps not surprising that some have been found to have followed inappropriate courses or to be insufficiently motivated about returning home to assist their own country in its development. Nevertheless, it is believed that on balance the provision of places for these, private students has been well worth while.

Projects

Turning to project aid, we have had succesful and rewarding experiences in a number of fields. We have contributed to the development of the infrastructure in many countries, for example, by the building of roads in Thailand and Malaysia, water supply systems in Vietnam, and port facilities and communications networks in Indonesia. In rural areas we have bad success in cattle and sheep breeding in India and rice growing in Fiji. Our project aid has been most rewarding. As I have mentioned, for this type of aid, Australian engineers and experts work alongside their local counterparts. In addition, local as well as Australian money is used with the result that the involvement of the local government authorities is assured. More recently, and as just one example of the way our programmes are embarking on new initiatives, plans are being developed for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to become directly involved in co-operative scientific research programmes in food production in Indonesia and Malaysia. The programmes will be spread over the next decade and cost many millions of dollars. I believe all these programmes will bring benefits to the recipients and reflect credit on Australia.

Trade

The initiatives which the Government has taken to help the economic development of developing countries is not limited to funds spent by my Department, or even to matters falling within its direct responsibility. Australia was a pioneer in the field of encouraging exports from developing countries by the introduction in 1966 of a preferential tariff scheme under which some manufacturers and handicrafts could be imported into Australia free of duty or at reduced tariff charges. At the Third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Santiago earlier this year, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, announced that this scheme was to be expanded by about 250 items over and above the 350 items it now covers. On the same occasion the Deputy Prime Minister sought the inclusion of all developing countries in future trade and monetary negotiations, particularly the 1973 meeting on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Moreover, the Department of Trade and Industry has established a special section to deal with problems facing developing countries in securing an Australian market for their exports. Often the reasons why developing countries have failed to take full advantage of the concessions prove to be quite minor. For example, packaging is unsuited to the Australian market, or the requirements regarding shipping documentation have not been fully understood. Advice from this section of the Department of Trade and Industry can help effectively in these situations.

Multilateral Aid

These efforts illustrate the success of bilateral programmes which is why they form such an important part of our aid programmes. However, anyone who has carried any responsibility for aid programmes soon comes to realise the staggering magnitude of the problems and the insufficiency of Australian resources to cope with them alone. Accordingly, it has been a further principle of our operations in this field to play our part as a member of the United Nations and those United Nations bodies which are involved in the field of aid to encourage others to assist and to involve the whole international community of developed nations in assisting the developing countries.

The relative merits of bilateral and multilateral assistance have been widely canvassed, lt will be appreciated from what I have said that I regard them as being complementary. Both have a place in our aid programme. Bilateral aid has enabled us to concentrate assistance on the countries nearest and of most direct interest to us and on assistance in fields where we have a special expertise. The work of the international agencies, including their ability to draw on the resources of many donors and to make long term analyses of a developing country's needs, also has particular value. They are able to organise assistance for large scale projects which demand considerable capital and expertise. In particular I draw attention to the contribution of the Asian Development Bank. This has paved the way for large scale development projects and has emerged as a major force for development in the ECAFE region.

The analyses which the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development makes of recipient countries' overall development needs and its organisations of aiddonor groups for developing countries has facilitated our aid planning in various of our neighbouring countries. The value of the International Monetary Fund as a consultative body to nations where Australia is engaged in programme aid such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos should also be noted. The estimates provide for increased contributions to several multilateral agencies. An important development is the decision to take up an increased capital subscription to the Asian Development Bank of $US127.5m of which 80 per cent will be on call. Payment will be made over 3 years. In 1972-73 we will also make a further contribution of SUS250.000 to the Technical Assistance Special Fund of the Asian Development Bank. This year, Australia will also make increased contributions to the United Nations Development Fund, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

This expanded effort in the multilateral field recognises the new demands being made of these agencies and the importance of their place in development assistance. Australia, in particular, has welcomed the new effort of the United Nations Development Programme to co-ordinate the assistance programmes of United Nations agencies at the country level. Australia is chairman of the Executive Committee of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a member of the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme.

Public Interest in Aid

Honourable members will be aware that, since May, a Sub-Committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs has been examining aspects of Australia's foreign aid. It has already considered a number of written submissions and heard a variety of witnesses. I welcome this inquiry as a significant contribution to the creation of informed opinion on aid questions not only in the Parliament but throughout the community. In fact, I believe that this is happening already and is, in part at least, a reflection of the growth in the past year of the awareness of many Australians of the problems of the developing countries and of their importance to Australia. I have seen evidence of this growing public interest in the work of the voluntary agencies and in the increasing public interest and discussion of foreign aid matters. The Government welcomes this development.

On a wider front, the Australian public has also demonstrated its concern for the welfare of people beyond its own borders. In 1971 private citizens through their community groups, churches and voluntary aid agencies or simply as individuals, contri buted some $US 18.7m to overseas relief and development projects, complementing, in a humane and effective way, our official aid.

Conclusion

Australia is rich in per capita resources and Australians have a high standard of living. However, it is the individual men and women of Australia, through the taxes they pay, who carry the burden of the country's aid programmes for our less developed neighbours. Our population is not large by world standards. Our resources are not unlimited. There are limits therefore to what we alone can do in assisting the international community. We have many pressing problems of welfare of our own people and development of our own country to meet. There are naturally some who believe that charity begins and perhaps should end at home. However, the Government believes that most Australians wish to build a society in which not only do we care for each other but one which has a care for its neighbours. This is not only a proper and humanitarian view; it is also sound sense.

The contribution which flows annually from the more developed countries of the Western world to the developing countries, which is running presently at the rate of about $15 billion annually, is critically important to them and represents a real and significant contribution to peace and order in the world. This is particularly evident in the region of Asia and the Pacific to which the greater part of Australia's aid is directed. Ultimately, in our democracy, it is the community which must decide the priority given to development assistance. I am confident that the Australian people have the breadth of vision to support the level of assistance and the aid policies which the Government has maintained and the place which development assistance has been given in our national priorities. I present the following paper:

Australian Foreign Aid and annex to that statement - Ministerial Statement, 21st September 1972.

Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed.

That the House take note of the paper.







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