In 2014, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, released the Australian Government’s new aid policy, Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability. The policy introduced significant changes to how and where Australia delivers its overseas development assistance, with an increased focus on the Indo‑Pacific region.
At the same time, the then Minister also released a new performance framework, Making Performance Count: enhancing the accountability and effectiveness of Australian aid.
Since that time, the Australian Government has announced a range of policies to support key priorities of the aid program, including increased private sector development, gender equality and empowering women and girls, and innovation.
Overview of the inquiry
On 28 March 2018, following a request from the Committee originating in the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, referred to the Committee a request to inquire into and report on the strategic effectiveness and outcomes of Australia’s aid program in the Indo-Pacific and its role in supporting Australia's regional interests.
On the same day, the Committee then referred the inquiry to the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee to undertake.
In announcing the inquiry, Chair of the Sub-Committee, Mr Chris Crewther MP, stated that the inquiry is an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of recent changes to Australia’s aid program and to ensure the program is improving outcomes for Australia’s aid partners and supporting Australia’s interests in the region.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised on 29 March 2018 and the Sub-Committee invited written submissions addressing the terms of reference to be received by 15 June 2018.
At the time of publication, the Sub-Committee had received and published 101 submissions and six supplementary submissions, which are listed in Appendix A. The Sub-Committee had also received five exhibits, which are listed in Appendix B.
At the time of publication, the Sub-Committee had held five public hearings in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Witnesses who gave evidence at these hearings are listed in Appendix C.
The Sub-Committee expresses its appreciation to submitters and witnesses who have contributed evidence to the inquiry to date.
Various aspects of Australia’s aid program have been considered in recent parliamentary inquiries.
Having particular regard to the Indo-Pacific region, this Committee has inquired into the role of the private sector in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty, human rights issues confronting women and girls, and development partnerships in agriculture and agribusiness.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee has inquired into Australia’s overseas aid and development assistance program, the delivery and effectiveness of Australia’s bilateral aid program in Papua New Guinea, and Australia’s implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Scope of this first report
The first report of the Committee outlines the context of the inquiry, provides a brief summary of evidence received, and presents the Committee’s findings and recommendations to date. Given the wide scope of the inquiry, it is intended that further reports and recommendations be issued presuming the inquiry continues past this term of Parliament.
Chapter 2 outlines the context of the inquiry. It begins with an overview of Australia’s aid program, and then notes some regional and international developments relevant to the aid program, concluding with a summary of recent announcements relating to the aid program.
Chapter 3 examines the level of public support for the aid program and considers suggestions received in evidence for strengthening public support for the aid program.
Chapter 4 outlines the performance framework for the aid program, and then considers evidence on the effectiveness of the aid program.
Chapter 5 examines the role of the private sector in the aid program, drawing on evidence received in relation to aid for trade, private sector partnerships, and local procurement.
Chapter 6 considers evidence in relation to the focus in the aid program on improved outcomes for women and girls.
The Committee will continue to consider evidence received, particularly in relation to the matters not considered in detail in this first report, with the aim to produce further recommendations in subsequent reports.