The new aid paradigm - National Press Club Q and A

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18 June 2014

JOURNALIST Ms Bishop, Andrew Probyn from The WestAustralian, thanks very much for your speech and forgive me if I immediatelytake you off topic. I have learnt on Monday or about Tuesday you have receiveda letter from the Secretary-General of the Arab League officially protestingGeorge Brandis' renunciation of the policy. I want to know what your messagewill be with regards to East Jerusalem to the Arab League and others in the region.And secondly, were you aware of the new policy before it was enunciated by SenatorBrandis?

JULIE BISHOP First, there is no new policy. The Governmenthas not changed our policy which is a commitment to a two-state solution wherethe Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace behind internationallyrecognised boundaries. That has always been our policy and will remain ourpolicy.

Ihave replied to the letter I received and you also received and I am meetingwith the Arab Ambassadors tomorrow to reaffirm our commitment to the two-statesolution. We remain committed to United Nations Resolution 242 which was afterthe 1967 events. We remain committed to UN Resolution 338 after the 1973events. And we urge the people of Israel and the Palestinians to come togetherand urge their leaders to come together to negotiate a just and lasting peace.

That'swhat we want for the people of the Middle East, that's what we want for thepeople of Israel and those living in the Palestinian Territories. We want tobring them together, define those boundaries and the issues that are at theheart of the final stages of negotiations should be concluded and I don'tintend to make the job of the negotiators any harder. I want to ensure that wecan encourage the parties to come together for a just and lasting peace.

JOURNALIST The second part of the question was whetheryou were aware of the new policy?

JULIE BISHOP No I answered that. My first sentence wasthere is no change in policy so I can't be aware of something that doesn'texist.

JOURNALIST Were you aware of the new enunciation of theold policy then?

JULIE BISHOP I was aware of the reaffirmation of the samepolicy.

JOURNALIST Brendan Nicholson from The Australian, MsBishop. One of the key roles of the Australia Network was to project softdiplomacy into the region. Now that the Government has taken that contract awayfrom the ABC how does it intend to actually fulfil that task?

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for the question Brendan. Therewere a number of victims of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, not the least beingthe Australian people, the Australian economy, Julia Gillard's career, KevinRudd's legacy, also the ABC because through that ongoing dispute between theleaders of the former Labor Government, there was a scandalous tender processinvolving our public diplomacy contract.

Yousee, this is an appropriation of funds to the Department of Foreign Affairs andTrade for public diplomacy initiatives and it was put out to tender and in atender process that drew the criticism of a number of our accountabilityorganisations, it was awarded to whomever Kevin Rudd didn't want it awarded to.I could not in all conscience continue to provide Australian taxpayers' moneyunder a tender that – I have to say it – was not meeting the contractualobligations that were required.

Sowe are taking a new approach to public diplomacy. As a result of the mergerbetween AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade we now have asignificant public diplomacy section. One of our public diplomacy initiativesis the New Colombo Plan - $100 million over five years – sending youngAustralians and undergraduates out into our region to live and work and studyamongst the people of our regions and be ambassadors for our country – I can'tthink of a better way of promoting soft-power diplomacy than through ourbrilliant young Australian undergraduates who are taking part in the NewColombo Plan.

Butwe are also planning other ways of enhancing Australia's image and reputationin the region for that is what the public diplomacy contract was all about. Andfortunately with advances in technology should the ABC wish to continue itsbroadcast into the region – and I certainly hope it does – than technology willbe on its side. Apparently you just have to lift the geo-block and you canwatch AFL football and if that is what people think public diplomacy is allabout then you can watch it in the region.

SoI think with technological advances and the kind of technological competitionthat is out there we will see opportunities to continue to promote Australia'simage and reputation in the region. But I still think the most powerful way ofdoing that is through our people – through people-to-people links – and that'swhere our focus will be.

JOURNALIST So there won't be a broadcast?

JULIE BISHOP Not funded by the taxpayer other than thefunding that already goes to the ABC.

JOURNALIST Thanks Ms Bishop, Catherine McGrath from theAustralia Network and ABC television. Can I bring your back to aid for amoment, in terms of the recipient countries, what are you asking from them interms of governance and can you be specific? You have talked before about PNG,can you tell us what you discussed with them, what plans you have forgovernance there? Also, in terms of the benchmarks, can you be specific onthat, what do you expect to be met on the benchmarks, what are the percentagesand if they are not met what will be the procedure?

JULIE BISHOP First there are the benchmarks – the documentMaking Performance Account: Enhancing the Accountability and Effectiveness ofAustralian aid – and it is all set out in this little book and there is anotherhere and another one here, so there is plenty of information available as tohow this will work.

Butwhat we have been doing is consulting with our partner countries and sittingdown with them and talking through our expectations of their governments interms of the implementation of the aid program and these have been very frankand honest discussions that I suggest that we haven't had in the past.

Ihave been delighted by the realisation, the acceptance and the enthusiasm ofthe partner governments to work with us, they don't want to see Australia aidwasted. They don't want to see corrupt practices diverting funding away fromthose who need it most. And they are very willing to work with us, to raisestandards, accountability and transparency in governance and they will betailored to meet each country because no two country is the same. They havedifferent institutions, different challenges, different opportunities. So weare tailoring our expectations country-by-country and I must say there has beenan enthusiastic reception to our ideas.

Youmentioned Papua New Guinea and I see my very dear friend the High Commissionerfrom Papua New Guinea Charles Lepani here and Charles knows that on my visitsto PNG – and I have had a number from when I was Shadow Minister and again asForeign Minister – I've spoken frankly with the Ministers in PNG. We've come upwith innovative ideas and ways that we can roll out our program. We've alignedour priorities with their priorities and I believe that we will see a newpartnership, an economic partnership with PNG, that we have not been able toachieve in the past.

That'sthe story with each country that we are working with in an economic partnershipand even the language makes a difference – get away from these old stereotypesof "we are the donor, you are the recipient – this is the way we are going todo it". You work in partnership with them and I am confident that we will getsome pretty good results, indeed, I want the best available results for everydollar we spend.

JOURNALIST Hi Ms Bishop, Phil Currie from the AustralianFinancial Review. A domestic question in your capacity as a senior member ofthe Abbott Government. It wasn't that long ago that Prime Minister Abbott washolding up a veiled threat of a double dissolution election. In the last hourthe Senate has handed you your first trigger by blocking the repeal of theClean Energy Finance Corporation for the second time. Given the Coalition'scurrent standings in the polls, is there any circumstances you can envisagethat the double-D threat being carried out or was it the whisky talking –figuratively speaking – at the time?

JULIE BISHOP I won't adopt your analogy. The Australianpeople elected us in a resounding outcome last September to fix the budget debtand deficit disaster left by Labor. They didn't elect us to continue withLabor's economic policies, they didn't elect us to continue with Labor's borderprotection policies, they didn't elect us to continue with a carbon tax or amining tax – they elected us on the platform that we promised and that's whatwe are doing. We are getting on with the job of fixing the budget, stopping theboats, repealing the carbon tax and the mining tax and building theinfrastructure of the 21st century. My Prime Minister will be proudof me that I got all four in the right order!

Justbecause you are given a trigger doesn't mean you have to pull it. I think theAustralian people – my judgement – were sick and tired of the instability andthe uncertainty that was the hallmark of the last five years of the previousgovernment. For business confidence, for investment confidence and for consumerconfidence, we owe it to the Australian people to get on with the job theyelected us to do.

JOURNALIST Mark Kenny, Ms Bishop, from the Age and theSydney Morning Herald, thanks for your address. Can I ask you about the UNSecurity Council – our membership there has about six months to run, there wasa lot of controversy associated with Australia's bid for it, the cost of it andthe effort that went into it and so forth – I wonder whether you think it hasbeen worth it? How important has our membership been and I supposed in SecurityCouncil-related business – looking at the crisis in Iraq at the moment – whatlessons can the west draw from what happened the first time and where we arenow and what the international community might now consider to address the Iraqsituation?

JULIE BISHOP Whatever controversy there was about uspursuing a seat on the UN Security Council – it wasn't about pursuing the seat,it was about the manner in which it was done and I alluded to that so subtlytoday in my address when I talked about the aid budget being used for purposesunrelated to poverty reduction. Buying votes on the UN Security Council is notmy idea of an aid program.

Butwe are there and the Coalition said from the outset that we are determined toserve with distinction on the UN Security Council and I believe that our teamin New York has done just that and I pay credit to Ambassador Gary Quinlan andour team of diplomats at the United Nations for the work they have done overthe past 15 months or more.

Somuch of the UN Security Council schedule has been focussed on Syria during ourtime and I believe that we were able to achieve a great deal as a temporarymember of the Security Council in actually bringing the United States andRussia together to agree on a commitment to humanitarian aid into Syria at atime when there was significant tension between the permanent members of theSecurity Council on Syria. You will recall that the circuit-breaker was anagreement to pursue the chemical weapons in Syria – Australia at that time wasable to steer a humanitarian statement through the Security Council and that wasno mean feat. But still so much of our work on the Security Council is focussedon Syria and now I expect on Iraq.

Butwe have also had the opportunity to pursue other ambitions of the AustralianGovernment including in relation to the illicit arms trade, illicit small armstrade. Australia had now ratified the Arms Trade Treaty that we co-authoredback in 2006, so in one sense that whole issue has come full circle.

Ihope that we will be able to use the remaining few months in a positive way aswe have in the past. I hope to be there for the Leaders Week in September andhopefully in between the G20 and every other forum that is on in November, Imight get there for our final presidency. There is something quite symbolicabout Australia sitting at the chair of the UN Security Council at such achallenging time in geopolitical and strategic circumstances. So of courseAustralia pulls its weight in the UN, we always have and we always will andnext time we seek a seat on the Security Council I can assure you theAustralian aid budget remains intact.

JOURNALIST Just to go beyond the Security Council per seto the other aspect of Mark's question about our history of involvement in theMiddle East and the position that we find ourselves in today which is not whereone would have assumed we have wanted to be or at least where we wanted theMiddle East to be. I think the question was about lessons from that – whatlessons do you get from that?

JULIE BISHOP Well I don't believe that when the Iraqi Governmentasked the United States to leave in 2011 anyone could have foreseen what wasgoing to occur in Syria and then flow on into Iraq in terms of this terroristorganisation ISIL or ISIS as it is also know. Obviously at that time the IraqiGovernment believed that its security forces were in a position to maintainsecurity and stability in Iraq. But the Syria conflict – this sectarian civilwar that is going on inside Syria – is having an impact on the region and ithas now had a direct impact on Iraq. For this terrorist group is an offshoot ofAl Qaeda and as unbelievable as it might seem it is even too extreme for AlQaeda because it has parted company.

Butthis idea of a caliphate or some kind of Islamic state across Syria and Iraq isdeeply disturbing and Australia will do what it can – as it has in the past –in working with the international community to try and bring some peace to the– in this case – the Sunni and Shi'ite sides that have locked into thisdisastrous conflict.

Wehave to provide support to the Iraqi Government – there is a sovereigngovernment in Iraq – we have to provide support to them as their securityforces seek to repel this particularly brutal terrorist group. Australia standsready to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq should a request be forthcoming.Likewise, we stand ready to support the United States should they need ourassistance to get diplomatic staff out of Iraq but this will be subject to arequest from the Iraqi Government.

JOURNALIST Daniel Hurst from Guardian Australia.Minister, you have been speaking today about improving the overalleffectiveness of the aid program. How can the overall effective be improvedwhen it comes at the same time as the pursuit of such large savings from theaid budget overall? And secondly, in relation to aid-for-trade how will youensure that the benefits that flow from that – those investments – actuallyflow to the people who are most in need in those countries?

JULIE BISHOP Well you talk about savage cuts – no. Therewas a trajectory of proposed funding that the Labor Government was never goingto deliver. In actual fact in January, we announced a $107 million cut from theactuals of the previous budget and that was spread across areas that are notour priority. So we are not going to embrace Labor's trajectory of spending –that was never Labor's intention either – for in the last 15 months of theprevious Labor Government they announced and then withdrew $5.7 billion in aidfunding. That creates uncertainty and instability and causes real problems foraid organisations.

Sowe have stabilised the aid budget – and I have been saying this for so long Idon't think anybody in this room would miss it - $5 billion over the next twoyears and then increasing by CPI thereafter. So we believe in that way with theperformance framework that we have put into place we are going to get bettervalue for money and the stability and the certainty surrounding the aid programwill benefit the recipients as well as those having the deliver it.

Yousee we are not going to, for example, raid the emergency fund of $740 millionas the previous government did to fill its budget hole in onshore processingunder the immigration program. I believe it is scandalous for the government totake money out of our emergency fund - $740 million – the Labor Government madeitself the third largest recipient of Australian foreign aid by that littlepractice and putting it into a budget where they have lost control. So I thinkthe certainty and stability that we are providing will be of great benefit.

Youmade a point about what we are going to do to ensure that that the privatesector development actually provides support to those who need it most. We are taking on the experience of other countries.We're certainly taking on the experience of DFID in the United Kingdom. We'rerealistic about the role of the private sector, but international evidencereinforced the fact that private-sector led growth is the primary driver ofpoverty reduction. We will ensure, by our incremental process of embracingaid-for-trade initiatives that we do make a difference to the lives of thosewho need it most.

JOURNALIST How much confidence do you have in the PNG Government given allegationsof corruption against Peter O'Neil and his decision to sack the man who broughtforward those allegations? Also if I may, if you could give us an update on thePeter Greste case now that the new Egyptian Foreign Minister has come in?

JULIE BISHOP Papua New Guinea is one ofour dearest, closest friends. Papua New Guineans are family. Whateverchallenging circumstances Papua New Guinea finds itself in, we will embracethem, and work with them, and partner with them to find solutions. The currentmatters that you raise are matters for the PNG Government. What we can do astheir dear friend and partner and neighbour is provide support, providecapacity training, provide all the kinds of assistance that will help PNGembrace good governance, accountability, and transparency in this program. AndI think we have a responsibility. PNG is the only nation-state to have been acolony of this country and we have a primary responsibility to support PNG.Under this Government I intend that we continue to do so.

On Peter Greste – thank you for reminding me, we havemade the highest representations that we are able on behalf of Peter Greste tothe previous interim Egyptian Government, indeed our Prime Minister telephonedthe interim President. I have contacted the former Foreign Minister on numerousoccasions and had personal discussions with him, making representations onbehalf of this journalist whom I believe has just found himself in the wrongplace at the wrong time. We have made representations at whatever level we areable. Attorney-General George Brandis rang his counterpart, we have been intouch with the ambassador here, our ambassador in Cairo is constantly in touchwith the Egyptian authorities.

Last Monday night there was a change in ForeignMinister and I am making progress in arranging a time to speak to ForeignMinister Shukri hopefully over the weekend. But we got notice of hisappointment on late Monday night and immediately on Tuesday we were seeking toarrange a time to speak to him. I understand that there will be a judgement onMonday or early next week, and I hope that we will have Peter Greste home assoon as possible.

JOURNALIST Minister I wanted to ask about PNG and the benchmarks. PNG is ourlargest aid recipient, yet in a lot of your own speeches you've admitted thatthey haven't met any of the MDGs. Under the Governments performance benchmarks,do they stand to have their program cut? And you mentioned they're our closefamily – we require them for a number of our programs including the ManusIsland detention centre, they're also a very strong bilateral partner. How easywill it be to actually cut aid to family?

JULIE BISHOP In fact our aid to Papua New Guinea increases this year. It's about $577million up from about $519 million, so we're increasing aid, we're not cuttingit. What we're doing in this new partnership, and I've had, as I said, somevery frank discussions with my counterpart Minister Rimbink Pato and with theirPlanning Minister who is responsible for this area, Charles Abel.

We have worked out new ways that we can work togetherto ensure that Australia aid is spent effectively. We're focusing oninfrastructure projects, we're focussing on health and education and we'redoing things differently. But I've made it clear to the PNG Government, andthey agree, that we can't continue spending billions and billions of dollars inPNG when they won't meet any of their Millennium Development Goals by 2015,indeed they're going backwards.

This is one of the reasons that we need a new approachto Australian aid. We cannot keep doing what we've always done and then expecta better result, if the evidence isn't there to support it. So we have to dothings differently. And that's why our relationship with PNG will only beenhanced through this process; because we're sitting down, talking through,line by line, what we intend to do, with them as partners. We're not lecturing,we're not hectoring. They're our partners, they're our family, and we'll workthrough it with them to get better outcomes for the people of PNG.

JOURNALIST Will the funding for your new projects that you've mentioned in yourspeech, come from the $380 million allocated in the Budget for cross-regionalrelationships, or another source?

JULIE BISHOP The $380 million for cross-regional allocation is funding that –self-evidently – benefits a number of regions, including some of those in theannouncements that I've made today. Funding for the Global DevelopmentInnovation Venture, funding for the Innovation Hub, and cross-regionalallocations also includes the direct aid program, which means funding that wegive to our embassies and missions. Most of the Australian Award Scholarships,some health, education and gender programs that are cross-regional, also in thearea of disabilities, fisheries and agriculture, the Aid for Trade will be inthere as well, and the Global Partnership for Development program. There arealso some multilateral funding replenishments that we haven't yet announced butthat will also come out of the $380 million.

JOURNALIST I was wondering whether, in terms of our international relationships; isthere, probably, a need for a more specifically defined Australian foreignpolicy? Atthe moment we have obviously a lot of mobility from Cabinet members who travelthe world which you as Foreign Minister probably would see would've been someof your tasks in the past but have been now taken up by more specific Ministers– be that Trade or the Prime Minister himself?

JULIE BISHOP Well there has always been a Trade Ministerfor as long as I can remember and the last Trade Minister in the HowardGovernment – I recall Mark Vaile – was very active on the world stage inpursuing Free Trade Agreements. Regrettably there was a lapse of about sixyears where the Labor Government didn't have the same enthusiasm for tradeagreements as the Coalition and so you are probably used to seeing a TradeMinister who spent more time on Sky news than out and about around the world negotiatingFree Trade Agreements.

But we now have a Trade and InvestmentMinister who is proactive and doing precisely what he was appointed to do andthat is attract more investment into Australia and undertake negotiations andconclude more formal Free Trade Agreements to the benefit of our exporters, ourbusinesses, our people – more sources of capital for businesses in Australia –so Andrew Robb is doing an outstanding job, precisely what I would have wantedhim to do.

Likewisethe Prime Minister, I don't recall a time when a Prime Minister didn't travelextensively overseas. We had one that was even named Kevin 747 who did so muchtravelling. So I think the Prime Minister has focussed his efforts on buildingrelationships in areas that promote our national interest – his first overseasvisit was to Jakarta, quite rightly, Indonesia is a very important relationshipfor us – and on each occasion that he has been overseas for a bilateralrelationship he has taken with him a significant Australian business contingent– that's different taking 700 business people to Shanghai for Australia Weekwas a huge success and sent a very strong message to China.

SoI am delighted that my Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Investmentare undertaking a level of travel that most certainly promotes our bilateraland multilateral relationships and I can assure you it hasn't meant that I havespent time twiddling my thumbs, I have had quite a lot of do during a verypacked foreign affairs agenda.

Ifyou want a simple straightforward statement about Coalition foreign policy, itis unmistakably to project and protect Australia's reputation as an openexport-orientated successful market economy and an open liberal democracycommitted to freedoms, democratic institutions and the rule of law. That iswhat our foreign policy is designed to do.

JOURNALIST Karen Barlow, ABC news, thank you for yourspeech Julie Bishop. Well aid be applied to the imminent Cambodia refugeere-settlement deal. If so, what standards would be applied, what would happenif those standards are not met, and overall what would happen when standardsare not met with all the aid innovation development projects, will countries beleft adrift?

JULIE BISHOP The relationship with Cambodia has not beenreduced to a written agreement and so we are still discussing with Cambodia theway in which it wants to contribute to the Bali Process and be a constructiveregional partner. Cambodia is a country that has great aspirations for itscitizens and from my discussions in my visit there in February they are verykeen to grow their economy as other countries in Asia have done and they aredetermined to become a constructive and productive member of our regionalcommunity.

Hence,they are prepared to be part of the regional solution under the Bali Processand accept a number of people seeking refugee status. Now the details of thatare still being worked through but I am sure that Cambodia sees this as anopportunity to promote its economic development. We already provide Cambodiaabout $80 million in aid assistance and that will be applied in accordance withthe benchmarks and the framework and the policies that I set out today.

Yournext question was about our innovative programs. If they don't measure up. Wellobviously we will manage our funding very carefully, we will analyse ourexpectations and we will analyse performance and it is not meeting expectationsand we can't see a way that it will then we will stop funding it and we willcome up with another way to do it. This is what has been missing in the past,honesty about what we were achieving, and papering over programs that were notachieving.

Someonementioned the fact that PNG is not going to meet its Millennium DevelopmentGoals and that infant mortality rates are increasing, maternal health outcomesare decreasing. Well clearly the aid programs designed to change that were notworking. We have got to think differently, innovatively, creatively about howwe can make a positive difference to the lives of the people in our region.

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