This report outlines the activities, observations and conclusions
arising from the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Defence and Trade References Committee exchange visit to Vanuatu and New
Zealand between 30 April and 9 May 2014.
Annual Parliamentary Committee Exchange Program
The Australian and New Zealand national parliaments have for a number of
years operated an annual parliamentary committee exchange program. The purpose
is to enable Australian and New Zealand parliamentarians working on committees
to explore issues of common interest that are the subject of consideration by
Each year one New Zealand parliamentary committee visits Australia and
one Australian parliamentary committee visits New Zealand. As the Australian
parliament has Senate, House of Representatives and joint committees (with
joint committees comprising senators and members of the House of
Representatives), the Australian parliament conducts the exchange program on a
rotation basis over a three year period, with a Senate committee selected one
year, a House committee the second year and a joint committee the third year.
Each visit is focused on the particular subject field of the committee
selected for the visit. Meetings, roundtables and inspections are arranged that
allow the committee members to exchange views and information with their
parliamentary counterparts as well as public servants, senior private
enterprise personnel, academics and experts working in the subject field of the
For Australia, each year the Presiding Officers call for nominations
from committees to participate in the program, with committees required to
outline the reasons they wish to be considered in that particular year. The
Presiding Officers select the committee they consider has put forward the most
compelling reasons for undertaking the visit.
In 2014, the committee visit to New Zealand was adjusted to include a
visit to one other Pacific region country. Another annual committee visit, the
parliamentary committee visit to the Asia-Pacific, was adjusted at the same
time to simply become a parliamentary committee visit to Asia.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee was
selected by the Presiding Officers to participate in the 2014 committee
exchange program. The committee nominated Vanuatu as the Pacific country of its
choice. The committee's proposal is included at Appendix 2.
The committee's work on Australia's
The committee's visit to Vanuatu and New Zealand was timely in light of
the its inquiry into Australia's overseas development assistance (ODA) program,
which was tabled in March 2014. The inquiry's terms of reference focused on the
broad policy settings for the delivery of Australia's overseas aid including
its international development priorities, and the integration of AusAID into
the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), including the freeze in
international development assistance funding.
A number of aspects of the inquiry report are relevant to the
committee's visit to Vanuatu and New Zealand. The report noted that:
more than 80 per cent of Australia's ODA is directed to its
nearest neighbours in the Asia Pacific region (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
are the two largest beneficiaries of Australian support);
the allocation of development priorities in the Australian aid
program for 2013-14 was education (22 per cent); economic development (20 per
cent); health (19 per cent); humanitarian (16 per cent); governance (16 per
cent); and general development support (7 per cent);
Australian aid should be allocated to the most effective
mechanism for delivery, including non-government organisations, private sector
contractors, bilateral agreements, and multilateral organisations; and
while integrating AusAid into DFAT has created opportunities to
improve Australia's aid program, there are also risks associated with the
merger including that DFAT may lose key skills, procedures and specialist staff
needed to effectively administer Australia's aid program.
Aims and objectives of the visit
The main objective of the visit was for the committee to investigate
three key issues within the committee's portfolio responsibility: defence
partnerships, tourism and overseas aid. The committee was particularly
interested in exploring:
the priorities, effectiveness and delivery of Australian aid to
Australia's contribution to Vanuatu's tourism sector and infrastructure
reforms to New Zealand's aid program that parallel recent
developments in Australia, including the reintegration of aid into the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2009;
New Zealand's tourism sector and its contribution to the national
economy, focusing on Queenstown as a national and international tourism
the reconstruction of Christchurch following the devastating 2010
and 2011 earthquakes including the city's economic and tourism prospects; and
Australia's defence and security cooperation with Vanuatu and New
Zealand, and the current and emerging security environment in the Asia Pacific
Many people assisted the committee's visit to Vanuatu and New Zealand.
The committee expresses its appreciation to all those involved in making the
visit a success. In particular, the committee would like to thank:
the International and Community Relations Office (ICRO) which
facilitated the committee's travel arrangements and development of the official
officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the
Department of Defence who briefed the committee before and after the official
officers who met with the committee from the Australian High
Commission in Vanuatu and New Zealand, and particularly Ms Tanya Parkin, Deputy
High Commissioner and staff (Australian High Commission, Vanuatu) and Mr Remo
Moretta, Deputy High Commissioner (Australian High Commission, New Zealand);
Ms Liz Kitto, Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand), and
Mr Darryl Stevens, Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives (New
Zealand) for facilitating all aspects of the New Zealand program.
The committee also records its appreciation to all of the people who
took the time to discuss their work and for their hospitality and courtesy
extended to the committee during its visit to Vanuatu and New Zealand. In
particular, the committee would like to thank the Hon Philip Boedoro, Speaker
of Parliament, Parliament of Vanuatu; the Hon Moana Carcasses Katokai Kalosil,
former Prime Minister of Vanuatu and Leader of Opposition; and the Hon David
Carter, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Parliament of New Zealand.
Structure of the report
This report consists of two main chapters. Chapter 2 provides a brief
introduction to Vanuatu followed by an outline of key
issues canvassed by the committee during its two-day program.
Chapter 3 provides a brief introduction to New Zealand followed by an
outline of key issues canvassed by the committee during its five-day program.
The committee's official program for Vanuatu and New Zealand and the
successful delegation proposal are included in the appendices.
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