Launch of Australian Humanitarian Partnership and Humanitarian Supplies Challenge

  • Speech, check against delivery

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

May I acknowledge my friend andcolleague, Trevor Evans the Member for Brisbane, my friends from PNG and theSolomon Islands, all those who are supporting the humanitarian effort thatAustralia takes part in around the world.

I am delighted to see so many peoplehere today for what is a very important announcement and I'm pleased to be inBrisbane to discuss the issue of natural disaster response and preparedness forthis affects us all.

Let me put it in some context. We are inan upgraded humanitarian supplies warehouse and this depot is a hub – not only forAustralia's response to the region – but also for NGOs and United Nationspartners. Being strategically placed here in Brisbane gives us the ability torespond quickly, effectively, efficiently to natural disasters in our region.

The fact is our part of the world isprone to natural disasters and the humanitarian crises that can so oftenfollow. Whether it be a cyclone, or earthquake, a tsunami, floods, fire anddrought, our part of the world tragically, sadly, receives more than its fairshare.

Australian communities understand theimpact of natural disasters. Here in our own nation it seems that every year weare hit by some kind of natural disaster and particularly in Queensland,cyclones, floods, fires and drought, and we have learned to be adaptable andresponsive. But we understand the impact, the tragic loss of life, the loss ofhomes, the loss of income and the loss of economic livelihood from some of ourmost fundamental economic drivers, agriculture, tourism.

Through the experiences that we have had,and from government responses – state, territory and federal level – we have developedan expertise in natural disaster preparedness and response.

As a global leader I believe we have anobligation to share the experience that we have gained over decades of heartbreaking, tragic responses to natural disasters.

That obligation extends specifically toour neighbourhood, the Pacific. I've seen firsthand the impact that Australia'sresponse can have on our friends and neighbours from the Pacific.

In Vanuatu in the aftermath of CyclonePam in 2015, and in Fiji in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston in 2016, seeingthe Australian response teams on the ground, providing supplies, support,rebuilding efforts, and the appreciation of our neighbours is overwhelming.

I don't know whether you've been on theground in a cyclone devastated area in the Pacific and seen an Australian C17military aeroplane fly overhead to land with supplies and personnel ready tobring hope to those who have been devastated by natural disaster and seen theresponse by the people - Australia is here, Australia is with us, Australia isour friend.

We are so well served by our Australiandefence personnel and I acknowledge the presence of the ADF here today and theyare a fundamental part of our humanitarian response. Our ADF personnel are ableto assist in transport, in equipment, in providing the personnel who have theexpertise – engineers and others – who can help put communities and nationsback on their feet.

We also work closely with stateemergency services, crisis response teams, those who can bring expertisequickly to ensure that the impact can be minimalised, medical teams and searchand rescue teams.

And of course we work with internationalpartners, International Red Cross, NGOs and UN partners. The effort iswidespread, it's extraordinary, but it's underpinned by some dedicated, veryexperienced personnel.

One of the lessons we have learnt herein Australia and that we can share in our region and indeed globally is themerit of early warning systems and preventative measures in advance of naturaldisasters. We know they are going to occur on a heartbreakingly regular basis.We know that the early warning systems that Australia has invested in havesaved lives.

In the case of Vanuatu, tragically 11people died and there was severe infrastructure damage, but we know that hadthere not been an early warning system in place that Australia helped implement,the loss would have been even greater.

In 2015 I brought together the PacificIsland Foreign Ministers – for the first time the foreign ministers gathered inSydney – and one of the issues that we focussed on was natural disasterpreparedness, early warning systems and we committed to having a jointresponse, a joint Pacific response, to these disasters.

We've had an example of incredible regionalcooperation from RAMSI as the Consul from the Solomon Islands will attest. TheRegional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands led by Australia and othernations in the Pacific has bought stability to an otherwise troubled time inSolomon Islands. RAMSI which will be winding up on 30 June this year has beenan extraordinary example of regional cooperation.

And again in the area of naturaldisaster response the region's commitment was in fact endorsed at the WorldHumanitarian Summit in 2016.

So today I am very pleased to announce anew $50 million Humanitarian Response Partnership. This partnership will bebetween the Australian Government and six Australian based international NGOs –Care, Caritas, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Visionand their consortium.

Together we will work to ensure that theimpact of natural disasters can be minimised, that our response is rapid andeffective and that we work with local communities - with church groups, withfamily groups – we work with those on the ground to ensure that our assistanceis delivered in timely fashion to those who need it most.

We have been involved in this kind ofwork for some time but this is the first time we've bought together sixAustralian based international NGOs to work in partnership with the AustralianGovernment, building on the expertise we have to ensure that we can bring asmuch relief to our region in the wake of natural disasters, as we possibly can.

The second announcement I'm very pleasedto make relates to innovation and those who follow the Australian aid budgetclosely will know that I have put innovation at the heart of our aid program.

We've brought together the very best andbrightest we can find in the private sector, in the public sector, to be partof what I call the innovationXchange and this is a hub within the Department ofForeign Affairs and Trade that comes up with new ideas, creative ideas,different ways of responding to, in some cases, age old problems.

It is just not acceptable for theAustralian tax payer, the Australian Government, to continue to invest throughour aid budget and not make a positive difference to the lives of those we seekto support.

This innovationXchange turns thinking onits head. If something isn't working find a way to make it work and come upwith solutions to some of the most intractable aid problems and developmentproblems that our region faces.

We've had a number of challenges - whichis a brilliant way of putting up money, seed capital for ideas challenges -putting it out to the world and saying this is our problem let's see whatanswers we can come up with, what solutions we can come up with.

On World Humanitarian Day last year Iannounced a $1 million Humanitarian Supplies Challenge. We wanted to come upwith a range of ideas that would give us better products to help us providesupplies to those in need in the wake of a natural disaster in the areas ofwater, energy and shelter – three fundamental issues in the moments after anatural disaster strikes.

So we put out our Humanitarian SuppliesChallenge to the world and 77 brilliant submissions were received from 12countries and today I'm proud to announce 13 products have been selected by anexpert panel to assist us in our humanitarian responses. Lighting solutions,water filtration and purification, different shelter concepts, and a number ofthese products have been developed here in Australia including one in TrevorEvans' electorate. They will be on display here.

Those 13 products they will be trialledand tested through our warehouses, through our hubs, we'll trial them in the Pacific- if they work they will then become part of our regular supplies to respond tonatural disasters. In this way, we're at the cutting edge of responses and alsoensuring that the innovative and creative ideas of Australians and others inthis field are recognised.

As Jamie said the Australian Governmentis placing a significant focus on our humanitarian effort.

In this year's budget I increased ourhumanitarian fund by $60 million – it's almost $400 million and we need to useevery dollar wisely - we need to invest the Australian taxpayer's funds wisely.

That is why we are focusing on workingefficiently with our partners, working effectively with the best productsavailable to respond and ensuring that as a global citizen and as a trust neighbourwe can bring relief to those who need it.

I'm delighted to make those twoannouncements today – our humanitarian partnership and our HumanitarianSupplies Challenge.

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