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Downer is the two billion dollar man.

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Bob Sercombe MP Federal Labor Shadow Minister for Pacific Islands 26 MAY 2005

Downer is the Two Billion Dollar Man

Labor has highlighted Alexander Downer’s incompetence in the Pacific, and the amount of money wasted because of his poor judgment.

Bob Sercombe, Shadow Minister for Pacific Islands, says “In the 1970s, US television brought us the Six Million Dollar Man, who ran around saving the world. Now, the Howard Government has brought us Alexander Downer, the Two Billion Dollar Man who runs around mucking up the Pacific.

“Mr Downer has now made two one billion dollar errors in judgment.

“Most recently, he failed to lay the proper groundwork for the Enhanced Cooperation Program with Papua New Guinea, after committing over $1 billion.

“He then sought to deny any responsibility for the ECP’s failure. On 16 May, when commenting on the drafting of the ECP legislation that the PNG Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional, Mr Downer said ‘We weren’t involved.’

“On 19 May, PNG Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu said in relation to the same legislation, ‘A statement made by the Australian Foreign Minister… that Australia was not involved in the preparation of the legislation… was both unfortunate and

incorrect… The suggestion that somehow Australia was in the dark when it came to the final ECP legislation is totally and simply incorrect.’

“Mr Downer’s second billion dollar error in judgment is the Solomon Islands.

“In 2000, the Solomon Islands government pleaded with Mr Downer for assistance. Mr Downer refused.

“And what do we find in July 2003? The Minister finally recognises the blindingly obvious, that a failing state on Australia’s doorstep probably isn’t a great national security outcome outcome, and that the RAMSI intervention is necessary. It’s estimated that RAMSI will also cost over $1 billion.

“Everyone understands that prevention is better than cure, that early intervention is cheaper than later intervention - everyone, it seems, but the Two Billion Dollar Man, Mr Downer.

“These programs are important, and Labor supports them. But Australian taxpayers are entitled to know that when the Government commits a billion dollars, it has done the groundwork, or that when a billion dollar program is needed, it’s not because the Government failed three years earlier.

“The Pacific deserves better, and Australian taxpayers sure deserve better. Mr Downer is the Two Billion Dollar Man - and he wants to be treasurer!”

Contact: Dave Peebles 6277 4742, 0432 449 071