Question Time - PNG women in agriculture

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

18 March 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:25): I thank the member for Indi for her question and I know, through my work in PNG, of the work that she has done through the organisation for PNG women in agriculture over the last seven years. The member for Indi is correct: Australia does have an outstanding research arm in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. ACIAR is a jewel in the crown of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It focuses on important agricultural research for developing countries. This year ACIAR will invest more than $94 million—an increase on last year—in agricultural research and, specifically, $5 million for PNG, which is also an increase on last year's budget. Specifically, ACIAR's research in PNG focuses on the hurdles that farmers face. So the research goes to high-value crops, higher yield seeds, better feed for livestock and similar. But the research has also shown that, if women are given access to agricultural research and training, farm productivity increases by about 20 or 30 per cent. We have got a program called 'liklik bisnis thinking', which means 'small business thinking'. In the last six months 330 PNG women have been trained in small business techniques, and 250 heads of family have also been trained under this program.

The member might be aware that, on 3 March, I announced 11 agricultural research scholarships, the John Dillon scholarships, which are funded through ACIAR. One of the recipients was Papua New Guinean woman Matilda Hamago. She is the first PNG woman to be awarded such a scholarship in agriculture research and I certainly hope she is the first of many.

The member might also be aware that the aid budget that we inherited from the Labor government was in an utter shambles. Over the last 15 months of that Labor government, they announced and then withdrew $5.7 billion from the forward estimates of the aid budget. We have now stabilised the aid budget. It will be $5 billion a year. It will be a responsible, affordable, sustainable budget, focusing on our region, focusing on Papua New Guinea. A pillar of it will be the economic empowerment of women in our region. So we will continue to provide support, particularly for women in the region, in the area of agriculture.

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