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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2617

Mr DRURY (Ryan) - I agree with a great deal of what has been said in the course of the debate by my colleagues on this side of the chamber. What I wish to devote myself to primarily is the question of Australia's overseas aid programs. In the Budget Speech presented last August the Treasurer (Mr Crean) informed the Parliament of the Government's proposal to increase external aid, including defence aid, from $257m in 1972-73 to $334m in the current financial year. He explained that most of this increase would occur in relation to aid to Papua New Guinea and that it relates to that country's movement towards self-government and independence.

Previously details of Australia's external economic and defence aid to developing countries had always been set out in statement No. 8 attached to the Treasurer's Budget Speech. This year there was a departure from that practice. A new procedure has been adopted. A detailed explanation of aid programs is to be found in the White Paper entitled 'Australia's External Aid 1973-74' which was issued concurrently with the Budget documents. The purpose of the various external economic aid programs undertaken by Australia to assist developing countries, including Papua New Guinea, is, of course, to assist those countries to attain more rapid economic growth and higher living standards. As a member of the Liberal Party I support these aid programs which over the years have played an important part in fostering good relations with the various countries concerned and in helping them gradually to stand on their own feet economically. This process, of course, is being continued and it is all to the good.

I do not oppose the move to grant selfgovernment to Papua New Guinea on 1 December next. But in regard to independence for Papua New Guinea I believe that Australia should not fix the date. It should leave this big question to the indigenous people to decide themselves. I do agree, though, that Australia must be prepared to continue for quite some time in the future to provide financial aid to Papua New Guinea as a near neighbour with whom we will all want to remain on friendly terms. I pay a tribute to the various voluntary overseas aid agencies which are making a very significant contribution to overseas development. I believe it is important that all contributions, by governments and by voluntary agencies, should be properly channelled to ensure that they reach the right sources.

The estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs for 1973-74 show a proposed increase of approximately $8m to cover administrative expenses, the Colombo Plan and other aid and overseas service. The details are fully set out, as honourable members would know, on pages 43 to 48 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1). To assist the promotion of greater regional security and co-operation in South East Asia and in the South Pacific, Australia is providing defence aid to a number of friendly neighbouring countries of immediate strategic interest to us. The nature of all such aid is determined in consultation with the recipient countries to ensure that the maximum effect is achieved. Expenditure on our bilateral aid programs - excluding Papua New Guinea - is estimated to increase by just over $6m in the current year to a total of nearly $67m.

The most important and most successful of these programs - I think we would all agree with this - is the Colombo Plan which was initiated by the Menzies Government in 1950. The next largest items under the heading Bilateral Aid Expenditures' include aid to Indonesia - excluding training and food aid - and the International Wheat Agreement-Food Aid Convention. Our multilateral aid expenditure for 1973-74, covering a very wide field indeed, shows a planned increase of $4,685,000 over the expenditure for the year 1972-73. I am sure that we all support this increase. By far the largest single increase is in expenditure for the Asian Development Bank which covers both capital subscriptions and special fund contributions. The increased allocation for these is $3,625,000. Substantial contributions are to be made to the various agencies of the United Nations. Some of these do very good work. I am aware, as are other honourable members in this chamber, that today is United Nations Day. At the same time I cannot refrain from making the observation, although the United Nations organisation has, in many respects, done good work it is in certain other quite important respects wide open to criticism, particularly on account of the double standards that it adopts.

Other major recipients of aid, according to Table 5 of the White Paper which has been distributed to honourable members, include the World Food Program, the South Pacific Commission, the International Rice Research Institute, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation and the South Pacific Air Transport Council. They are all important organisations. Table 7 of the White Paper shows the net financial resource transfers to developing countries as a percentage of gross national product during the years 1969 to 1972. The target of one per cent of gross national product as an annual contribution by the various donor countries was in fact exceeded by Australia by a substantial margin in 1970 and in 1971. In 1972 I notice we fell somewhat short of the one per cent target, although our performance was still well above the average.

The White Paper points out that the present method of assessing relative aid performance leaves much to be desired because of reservations concerning a government's ability to convert its policy intentions with respect to net financial resource transfers into actual disbursements to developing countries. It is suggested that a far more meaningful measure of the relative aid performance of individual donor countries is provided by the percentage of gross national product which each country donates to official development assistance. According to data published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development - known as OECD - Australia ranked fourth in the world in each of the last 3 years with figures well above the average. The donor countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some very significant countries are noticeably absent from this list of donors.

Table 6, which summarises the rapid growth in expenditure by Australia on external, economic and defence aid programs over the years, shows that we have a record of which we can well be proud.

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