Consideration in Detail: Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Assistant Defence Minister) (19:21): It's a privilege to rise and speak on the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio, and, in particular, address Australia's Pacific step-up and the work that the government is doing to ensure that we have a strong family relationship with our Pacific region.

I want to thank the member for Wentworth for his contribution and service in foreign affairs. He's a well-regarded serious diplomat who has served this country and is now in this parliament here. He is going to make a great contribution in this place—

An honourable member interjecting—

Mr HAWKE: Maybe so. I also welcome the member for Wakefield's very valued service. We appreciate his contribution. We hope he goes well in New York.

To the member for Shortland I would say, of course, he is prone to inflated rhetoric from time to time. He does suffer from one very serious ailment and that is believing what he reads in the media. It's a condition that we can assist you with. I wouldn't take all of your news—entirely about what is happening in the Pacific—from what you read in the papers. You may end up with the wrong inflection on what is actually occurring on the ground.

Indeed, since the government announced its Pacific step up, we are, of course, delivering a greater contribution to the Pacific than any other government in history. We're working with our partners through our aid budget—and I welcome the questions on the aid budget. We have had an election in the last six months. In the election there were radically different proposals put forward in the aid budget from the Labor Party and the government, and the people endorsed the government's proposals for the aid budget—that is, to spend $4 billion this year in ODA, including a record $1.4 billion of that for the Pacific. That's the highest amount we've spent on the Pacific.

At the PIF the Prime Minister made the important announcement that we'll spend $500 million for the Pacific specifically. That is a record amount on climate change spending for the Pacific. We'll have a record spend, record expenditure, on climate change in the Pacific, and we're delivering more than ever before for the Pacific out of our ODA budget. It is a bit disingenuous to purport that there have been radical cuts and big damage to our relationships. In fact, the bilateral relationships we have with all of our Pacific partners are strong.

I can record that Prime Minister Morrison is respected and well regarded by leaders across the Pacific. You don't need to read the papers about that. Prime Minister Bainimarama is coming here this week on an official state visit to sign the vuvale partnership—the family partnership. The links that we have with Fiji are strong, vibrant and ongoing. We respect them, and they respect us. That partnership will endure.

I do want to say also that the aid budget is a contentious area from time to time. The government has maintained the funding. Even in an environment where we are in budget repair, we've kept our ODA budget at the level that we believe is sustainable. The Australian people have endorsed that policy and they have rejected the radical spending of the Labor Party and the taxes that go with it.

If you don't believe me on that, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it can be very important sometimes to listen to your own side. I think it was a former foreign minister from the Labor Party who made a very astute point about the aid budget. He did that in a book that I know the member for Shortland will be passionate about it and will have read thoroughly and will probably have dog-eared bookmarks in, Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr. He made a very important point about the aid budget, which I think the member could take on board in response to his questions. He said that you can't run the aid budget on borrowings. I thought that was probably the most sensible thing I've ever heard Bob Carr say. You can't run the aid budget on borrowings. It doesn't make sense to borrow for our aid budget. He was right about that.

The government has the aid budget on a sustainable footing, ensuring that we are spending it in the region on the projects that our Pacific partners tell us are the priorities for the Pacific. We are, of course, engaging bilaterally. We're engaging at a multilateral level. We're making sure that the priorities of the Pacific are what dictate what our aid budget is spent on, and we're finding that process is ensuring climate adaptation and climate resilience projects—practical projects on the ground in the Pacific that will deliver real change and real outcomes for the Pacific people. The Pacific is our family. It's our backyard. They're the most important relationships that Australia has. They're regarded this way by the government. The Pacific step-up will continue. It'll be well resourced by this government.

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