MEDIA RELEASE (For immediate release)
AidWatch congratulates Prime Minister Rudd on appointment of a Minister for International Development
Australian Aid watchdog AID/WATCH today, came out in support of the appointment of a Minister for International Development as part of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s new ministerial line up.
Aid/Watch has long asserted that having an independent cabinet level minister is essential for the deliverance of a transparent, accountable and just aid program and we are pleased to see the direction that this is moving in.
The choice of Melissa Parke is particularly commended, her rich and relevant experience and commitment to speaking out – as she did with the issue of diversion of aid money – makes the sector feel good about our prospects for being heard. Being known for her support of human rights issues is something of need within AusAID as this is not something that has been demonstrated by Bob Carr. In many ways, with human rights also being a commitment of Ms Parke’s we will be coming to the table with similar interests which is very promising.
We are yet to see how she will work with Bob Carr given the potentially divergent views, and the influence DFAT and other ministries will have on the direction of AusAID.
AID/WATCH Director Thulsi Narayanasamy says, “We are very pleased that the aid budget is being taken seriously and have hopes that this will make the aid program more transparent and accountable, and to oversee spending to ensure that poverty reduction is at the heart of AusAID programming. This now gives us the unique opportunity to further engage Ms Parke on the need to create an Independent Review mechanism separate from DFAT and AusAID and we hope she will receive these suggestions openly”.
“While some efforts have been made to make AusAID more transparent, with the introduction of an Independant Review of Aid Effectiveness, AidWatch has ongoing concerns about the nature of some AusAID programs such as the Mining for Development Initiative which we see as a blatant promotion of Australian Mining under the guise of development with little evidence to suggest that this is the best course of action for resource-rich countries to develop.”
Ms Narayanasamy continued, “ other examples of AusAID programs which do not have the interests of the disadvantaged and poor as central are of course, the $375 million diversion of aid to the domestic refugee program. While AidWatch does not dispute the eligibility of this diversion under the OECD guidelines, which are incredibly vague on in-donor refugee costs, nor do we doubt that other countries have also implemented the guidelines in this way – the blatant disregard for the rights of people to seek asylum and the punitive nature of the asylum seeker policy makes it at odds with the OECD guidelines which have economic development and welfare as their aims. We hope to take these issues up with Ms Parke.”
“Whilst there are many calls to increase the aid budget, we prefer to focus on ensuring that the aid budget we already have is well managed, transparent and accountable to the Australian public and civil society organisations. Ms Narayanasamy said.
“Calling for more money to be spent on the budget is not a solution to an enormous lack of transparency and misspending under the aid budget.”
Ms Narayanasamy added that the scope of what the government is prepared to spend on under the aid budget is vast, “and we need to push them to narrow this scope to more adequately represent what tax-payers expect of our aid budget, which is poverty alleviation programs for the world’s disadvantaged.”
AID/WATCH are hosting a further exploration of these issues as part of the monthly AidTalks series held in Sydney.
For further information contact AidWatch Director Thulsi Narayanasamy on 0405 801 943