House of Representatives Committees

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Committee activities (inquiries and reports)

Inquiry into Australia's aid program in the Pacific

Print Preliminary Pages (PDF 123KB) < - Report Home : Chapter 1 - >

September 2007

Canberra

© Commonwealth of Australia 2007

ISBN 978-0-642-78936-5 (printed version)

ISBN 978-0-642-78937-2 (HTML version)


Contents

Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Membership of the Sub-Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations

Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Strengthening law and justice
Chapter 3 Improving economic management and public accountability institutions
Chapter 4 Maintaining access to basic services (especially health)
Chapter 5 Anti-corruption and good governance measures
Chapter 6 Supporting peace-building and community and civil society development
Chapter 7 Committee comment and conclusion
Appendix A – List of Submissions and Exhibits
Appendix B – Witnesses appearing at hearings
Appendix C – Australia's Overseas Aid Program Budget 2007-2008
Appendix D – Executive summary of AusAID's White Paper
Appendix E – Summary of Pacific 2020 report

Foreword

Australia’s aid program focuses on assisting countries in the Asia-Pacific region. A considerable proportion of our aid goes towards assisting our Pacific Island neighbours. In the 2007-2008 financial year $872.5 million will be disbursed in the Pacific, with the majority directed to assist citizens of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Each of the Pacific Island states has different development needs—some more complex than others—and the Australian aid program seeks to address a wide range of them. The Australian Government does so in partnership with, principally, national governments; but also other donors, non-government organisations and local communities.

In the course of the inquiry, the Committee heard from a wide range of government and non-government stakeholders with an interest in development in the Pacific—Australians and Pacific Islanders alike.

A key theme to emerge throughout the inquiry was the need for strong people-to-people links between Australians and Pacific Islanders—not only for development reasons but also to promote a deeper understanding and better appreciation of our respective cultures.
 
Concerns were raised by some that the people-to-people links between our nations (be they government-to-government, business, civil society or educational) have reduced in recent years. However, the Committee learnt that many opportunities for engagement exist and that these are increasing. For example, Australia is expanding its scholarship assistance through the Australian Scholarships Program and will double the total number of education awards offered to the region to over 19, 000.

It was with their benefits in mind that the Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider establishing a Pacific Island Youth Ambassador Scheme (similar to and possibly linked with the Australian Youth Ambassador Scheme or AusAID Development Scholarships), whereby young skilled Pacific Islanders can apply for placements in an Australian host organisation workplace for the purpose of work experience and cultural exchange. It is the Committee’s view that an exchange such as this will build further personal contacts and—in time—boost cooperative networks in Australia and the Pacific.

On behalf of my Committee colleagues I wish to thank all those who took part in the inquiry process, from providing written submissions and/or oral evidence at public hearings to meeting with the Committee on other occasions. The Committee valued the candid discussions it had with witnesses, who shared many anecdotal experiences and insights.

Aid and development is a complex area in which to work. The Committee acknowledges the efforts of Australians seeking to make a difference in this field, be they AusAID officials or public servants seconded to the Pacific from other government departments and agencies such as the Attorney-General’s Department, Customs, Defence and the Australian Federal Police; church groups; non-government organisations; academics; volunteers or private citizens. 

All are collaborating on a daily basis with counterparts in the Pacific, working towards common goals. In some parts of the region it is more a work in progress than in others—but their efforts to promote and enhance human rights and security in the region are something that Australians can be proud of and should continue to support.



Senator M A Payne
Chair, Human Rights Sub-Committee

Membership of the Committee

Chair

Senator M A Payne (from 15/08/07)
Senator A B Ferguson (until 15/08/07)

 

Deputy Chair

Hon. G J Edwards, MP  

Members

Senator Bartlett (from 09/12/05)

Hon B G Baird, MP

 

Senator P M Crossin (from 28/12/05)

Mr P A Barresi, MP

 

Senator A Eggleston

Mr M Danby, MP

 

Senator S Hutchins

Mrs T Draper, MP

 

Senator L J Kirk

Mrs J Gash, MP

 

Senator the Hon. J A L (Sandy) McDonald (from 08/02/07)

Mr S W Gibbons, MP

 

Senator C M Moore (from 23/06/05)

Mr B W Haase, MP

 

Senator M A Payne

Mr M J Hatton, MP

 

Senator N Stott Despoja

Hon. D F Jull, MP

 

Senator R B Trood (from 23/03/07)

Hon. J E Moylan, MP

 

Senator R S Webber (from 23/06/05)

Hon. G D Prosser, MP

 

Senator M Fifield (from 17/08/07)

Hon. B C Scott, MP

 

 

Mr R C G Sercombe, MP

 

 

Hon. W E Snowdon, MP

 

 

Dr A J Southcott, MP (from 08/02/06)

 

 

Mr C P Thompson, MP

 

 

Ms M Vamvakinou, MP

 

 

Mr B H Wakelin, MP

 

 

Mr K W Wilkie, MP



Membership of the Sub-Committee

Chair

Senator M A Payne

 

Deputy Chair

Ms M Vamvakinou, MP  

Members

Senator A Bartlett (from 09/12/05)

Hon. B G Baird, MP

 

Senator P M Crossin (from 28/12/05)

Mr M Danby, MP

 

Senator L J Kirk

Hon G J Edwards, MP (ex-officio)

 

Senator C M Moore (23/06/05)

Mr R C G Sercombe, MP

 

Senator N Stott Despoja

Dr A J Southcott, MP (from 02/05/07)

 

Senator R B Trood (from 23/03/07)

Mr C P Thompson, MP

 

Senator M Fifield (from 17/08/07)  

Committee Secretariat

Secretary

Dr Margot Kerley

Inquiry Secretary

Ms Sara Edson

Administrative Officer

Ms Jessica Butler
Ms Emma Martin

Terms of Reference

The Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will review the impact of Australian aid to the Pacific in promoting and enhancing human rights and security in the region.
The inquiry will focus on:

  • strengthening law and justice;
  • improving economic management and public accountability institutions;
  • maintaining access to basic services (especially health);
  • anti-corruption and good governance measures; and
  • supporting peace-building and community and civil society development.



List of abbreviations

APF

Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions

APTC

Australia-Pacific Training College

ASPI

Australian Strategic Policy Institute

AusAID

Australian Agency for International Development

AUSTRAC

Australian Transaction and Analysis Centre

AVI

Australian Volunteers International

AYAD

Australian Youth Ambassador for Development

CDI

Centre for Democratic Institutions

CIMIC

Civil Military Cooperation Unit

CUF

Credit Union Foundation

DEST

Department of Education, Science and Training

DFAT

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

ECF

Enterprise Challenge Fund

ECP

Enhanced Cooperation Program

EITI

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

FaCSIA

Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

FDC

Foundation for Development Cooperation

HRSC

Human Rights Sub-Committee

ICEAPS

International Centre of Excellence in Asia-Pacific Studies

IDG

International Deployment Group

IFC

International Finance Corporation

IMF

International Monetary Fund

JSCFADT

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

MOU

Memorandum of Understanding

NGO

Non-government organisation

ODA

Overseas Development Assistance

ODE

Office of Development Effectiveness

ORG

Operational Response Group

PBP

Patrol Boat Program

PCRF

Primary Casualty Reception Facility

PIF

Pacific Islands Forum

PITIC

Pacific Investment and Trade Investment Commission

PMCF

Pacific Media Communications Facility

PMI

Pacific Media Initiative

PNG

Papua New Guinea

PNGDF

Papua New Guinea Defence Force

PPD

Political Party Development

PPF

RAMSI’s Participating Police Force

RAMSI

Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands

RAN

Royal Australian Navy

TI

Transparency International

VIDA

Volunteering for International Development from Australia

List of recommendations

3 Improving economic management and public accountability institutions

Recommendation 1

The Committee notes the importance of financial services in the development of Pacific Island economies, and recommends that the Australian Government develop a focused strategy to encourage financial services development, including microfinance.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Tax Office, in conjunction with AusAID, consider and report on the merits and practicalities of Mr Roland Rich’s proposal to amend the Australian tax rules to encourage companies to become directly involved in building private sector capacities in developing countries in the Pacific by allowing them to deduct from their taxable income the full costs incurred in providing such assistance.

Recommendation 3

The Committee notes the evidence of the importance to Pacific Island economies of access to developed economies for seasonal workers, and recommends an active and serious evaluation by the Australian Government of the possibility of such a scheme.

4 Maintaining access to basic services (especially health)

Recommendation 4

The Committee supports the consideration of each of the issues raised by the students, and in particular recommends that the Australian Government conduct a regular review of the stipend rate for Pacific Island students on Australian Development Scholarships to ensure that it remains commensurate with the cost of living, and is at a reasonable level for those students with accompanying dependents.

6 Supporting peace-building and community and civil society development

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider establishing a Pacific Island Youth Ambassador Scheme (similar to and possibly linked with the Australian Youth Ambassador Scheme, or AusAID scholarships), whereby young skilled Pacific Islanders can apply for placements in an Australian host organisation workplace for the purpose of work experience and cultural exchange.

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