13 May 2013
Subjects: Cuts to foreign aid budget, closure of embassy in Budapest
DAVID LIPSON Julie Bishop thanks for your time.
Tony Abbott says he wants to see the state of the books before he can say whether he would deliver that boost to foreign aid before the Government. The Government’s now deferred it so when would that be? This week?
JULIE BISHOP We will need to see the state of the budget because this is yet another broken promise from Labor, this time over foreign aid.
There was a bipartisan commitment that Labor’s now broken, to commit 0.5 per cent of the Gross National Income to foreign aid by 2015. Labor broke that solemn commitment last year and they’ve broken it again this year.
They say they’re going to reach that target by 2017/18 but there’s not a promise, not a forecast, not a target that Labor comes up with that is believable and I don’t believe them on this one.
DAVID LIPSON So will you say what you will do this week?
JULIE BISHOP The Coalition will look at the state of the budget, we’ll see the size of the deficit, we’ll look to see how many broken promises there are in it and whether they’re going to continue to raid other parts of the budget to pay for the blow-out in the detention network budget and then we’ll be in a position to commit. Now whether it’s this week I don’t know we’ll have to wait to see the state of the budget.
DAVID LIPSON So it could be at PEFA which is a couple of weeks before the election one could assume?
JULIE BISHOP But the Coalition’s always said that we would commit to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income to foreign aid, what we can’t commit to is when that would be delivered because Labor has now broken that promise on two occasions in the last budget and then again in this budget and they are raiding other parts of the budget including the foreign aid budget to shore up their failings in the cost blow-out in the detention network and border protection.
DAVID LIPSON How is it that European countries that are in a much more dire financial state than Australia, countries like Britain, how is it that they can commit to keeping their increase to their foreign aid budgets when Australia cannot? Both sides of politics, the Government, and it seems like you can’t give this commitment at this point either.
JULIE BISHOP Hang on a minute. We made the commitment and it was a bipartisan commitment. We’re not in control of the books, we didn’t blow the budgets, we’re not the ones taking $375 million out of the foreign aid budget and putting it into border protection. We committed to 0.5 per cent of GNR by 2015….
DAVID LIPSON Are you still committed to that?
JULIE BISHOP But you can’t do it now. What Labor has done is they’ve pushed out that commitment to 2018 and in order to meet that commitment by 2015 you’d have to put in billions of dollars to shore up the aid budget. Now nobody’s suggesting that our foreign aid agency AusAID would be able to cope with that. They have comprehensively trashed the aid budget by pushing this commitment out over several years to 2018.
Now when we see the state of the budget we’ll be in a position to say how we would do it, but this is not a broken commitment on the part of the Coalition. This is all Labor’s own work and they have now made another forecast about when they’re going to reach this target. I don’t believe them. I don’t believe anybody else should take them at their word.
This is a Government that has promised on 500 occasions that they’d deliver a budget surplus in 2013 and they’ve walked away from 500 promises to the Australian people.
DAVID LIPSON What about the decision to close the embassy in Budapest? Is that something that the Coalition supports or would turn around?
JULIE BISHOP Well I’m concerned that there’ve been a couple of announcements, I assume they’re leaks from the budget that the Government is proposing to close certain embassies. I want to see the reasoning behind it, what’s the justification for it and hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to ask these questions in the Budget Estimates. But at this point they’ve just announced they’re closing it, they haven’t given any rationale, any reason, and I’d need to know why that is.
Our commitment in terms of our diplomatic footprint is, if we should be elected to Government, we will review our diplomatic footprint and we will align our presence overseas with our national interest to make sure that, for example, in economic terms that we have diplomatic presence where we are trying to increase market share or we’re looking for new markets or increasing established markets for example.
So we’ll look at the question of our diplomatic footprint on coming to Government but I think this is just another example of the Government looking to save money wherever it can because it has lost control of the budget.
DAVID LIPSON Can you give a commitment that any asylum seeker costs incurred under a Coalition Government won’t come out of the foreign aid budget?
JULIE BISHOP David the Overseas Development Budget is for overseas development. What the Government has done for the first time is used our Overseas Development Budget for onshore processing costs because they’ve lost control of the borders. We will not be using the foreign aid budget to prop up the detention network budget. There’s a budget for that and we intend to stick to it.
DAVID LIPSON Is that from the first year?
JULIE BISHOP We will not be raiding the overseas development assistance to do onshore processing. The Government says, oh technically it’s in the international guidelines. Well I challenge them, – it’s not overseas, it’s not development, how can it possibly be within the foreign aid budget?
DAVID LIPSON So that would come from other areas from day one?
JULIE BISHOP Well we intend to take control of the borders, we intend to stop the boats, we intend to clear the people who are currently in our detention networks. We’ve done it before under the Howard Government, we intend to do it again. So we will not see the necessity to go raiding other parts of the budget for the detention network budget, we’ll work within that budget.
This is just a very poor excuse from Labor by raiding the foreign aid budget, propping up their failings in the detention networks and border protection area and now they’re saying there’s going to be a cap on it so in other words they’re putting a cap on their raid of the foreign aid budget? It’s unacceptable.
DAVID LIPSON Julie Bishop thanks for your time.
JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.
– Ends –