Coalition senators’ dissenting report
Coalition senators do not support the Bill
It is important at the outset to note that opposition to the Bill is
neither a reflection of the African Development Bank (ADB) nor is it an
antithetical view of the need to improve cooperation with our aid partners to
further the development outcomes of the African continent.
Coalition senators oppose the Bill on the grounds that the Government’s
strategic priorities for Australia’s aid program, and its track record of poor
economic management of the same, are far from commendable.
We hold no dissention of the view that the ADB is a highly regarded
institution that has some remarkable achievements in improving the lives of
many Africans since its inception. The growth of the bank’s membership to now
include a number of the world’s largest economies, including the United States
and the United Kingdom, is testament to these accomplishments, as is the bank’s
steadfastness in returning to a AAA credit rating just over a decade ago. Many
Africans have witnessed an improvement in their health and education standards
and a reduction in inequality as a result of the bank’s projects.
The coalition supports the Millennium Development Goals that go to the
core of much of the ADB’s operations but more needs to be done if Africa is to
make valuable inroads in this area. In this regard, Australia will always stand
ready to offer assistance to those that are in need and to the causes and aims
we believe in.
Coalition senators believe, however, that providing support cannot come
at any cost which is the case with the government’s proposed membership of the
Australia’s membership of the group would require an initial
contribution of $249 million over three years at a time when the government is
moving further away from the bi-partisan commitment of 0.5% of GDP to be
provided as official development assistance (ODA). This quarter of a million
dollars is just the start with additional ongoing payments necessary from 2014,
the size of which are as yet undetermined.
The reality is that money is being borrowed from one country to be given
to another. The coalition does not believe this is the correct way to go about
membership of the ADB.
Only with a strong economy can we afford to provide the type of
assistance that we should strive to achieve through membership of the ADB.
Sadly, the Labor government cannot lay claim to such an economy.
Coalition senators believe that before further diluting our aid budget,
more must be done to ensure current allocations are delivered the way they
should be. As it stands, significant deficiencies remain.
AusAID is not meeting its performance benchmarks when it fails to
address the poor conditions at Daru Hospital. The sale of Australian education
scholarships for profit by so-called officials in Afghanistan is not evidence
of our aid money being appropriated properly. Performance benchmarks are not
being met when AusAID pushes money out the door in order to reach its
At a time when the pressure on the nation’s finances is so great, the
government should not be locking Australia into additional commitments at a
cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Coalition senators believe the focus
right now should be on what is essential, not what is desirable.
Dissention to this report should not come as a surprise. In his 2012-13
budget-in-reply speech, the leader of the opposition, Hon Tony Abbott MHR,
questioned why the Gillard Government was spending millions of dollars to join
the ADB in an environment where it is actually borrowing money to support its
ODA. Alarmingly, a proportion of our aid budget is even being spent on the
off-shore processing of illegal boat arrivals.
Once again, the coalition has no objection to the fine work undertaken
by the ADB and is similarly fully cognisant of the challenges that confront
many African nations.
The coalition's objection centres on the fact the government has
mismanaged the aid budget to the point that the time is not right to spread our
already thinning ODA even further. A more appropriate time to consider the not
insignificant cost of membership will only come when the nation's finances
improve and when our aid budget is used most effectively.
Coalition senators oppose the Bill.
Eggleston Senator David Fawcett
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