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International relations: no money, no policy, fewer staff.

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Peter Cook, Laurie Brereton - International Relations: No Money, No Policy, Fewer Staff Friday, 25 May 2001

International Relations: No Money, No Policy, Fewer Staff Peter Cook, Shadow Minister for Trade, and Laurie Brereton, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Joint Media Statement - 23 May 2001

Last night's budget confirms that Australia's foreign and trade policies are becalmed under the Howard Government", the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, said today. "Cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a historically low aid budget confirm this is a government devoid of international ambition."

"The fact that Foreign Minister Downer has not visited an Asian country for more than six months says a great deal about the Howard Government's commitment to engagement with our neighbours."

"Mr Costello's cynical `how to vote' budget shows there is no priority for foreign and trade policy in the Howard Government's plans for Australia", the Shadow Minister for Trade, Senator Peter Cook said. "The budget also confirms that Mr Downer and Mr Vaile have absolutely no clout in Cabinet."

"Mr Howard tries to make a virtue of having no `vision'. This is confirmed by the budget, which offers no new initiatives and no new money to promote Australia in the world."

"This budget sends a clear message in an election year", Mr Brereton said. "When votes have to be bought, Australia's international relations take a back seat. So the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - already hit by previous Coalition cuts - is to take a further reduction in staff, lessening the Department's capacity to promote the interests and welfare of Australians internationally."

"Australia's foreign aid budget remains at the historic low of 0.25 percent of GNP. This miserly performance undermines Australia's national interests at a time when the regional demands on our overseas aid programs continue to grow."

Senator Cook condemned the Government's failure to make an effective commitment to export promotion: "After dithering for nearly a year the Government has finally agreed to fund a continuation of the Export Development Grants Scheme. But despite its success, the EMDG scheme is still capped at the same level of $150 million per annum, as it was when it was irresponsibly slashed in the first Costello

budget. As a consequence the real value of Government assistance to Australian exporters continues to fall."

"Mr Vaile is good at riding with the successes of Australian exporters doing well from an ultra-competitive A$. But his job is to create new markets through trade policy and to win the necessary support for trade within Cabinet. On these he can now be judged a complete failure. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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