JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is here to talk us through her announcement. Minister this seems like a good approach but we are still giving less than half of the UN target we agreed to. The UK can do it, so why can’t we?
JULIE BISHOP: We are providing $5 billion each and every year and then in two years’ time it will increase by CPI – that puts us among the top 10 donors in the OECD world and by focussing it on our region where I believe we have primary responsibility, 90 per cent of our aid budget will be spent in the Indian Ocean Asia-Pacific, we will be targeting some of the poorest countries on earth. We are going to drive economic development to reduce poverty and lift standards of living in our region.
JOURNALIST: But Minister we promised 0.7 per cent and we are only giving 0.3 – that is a big difference.
JULIE BISHOP: The problem is we inherited a budget that is on track to a debt of $667 billion and we are borrowing from overseas $1 billion each and every month to pay the interest on Labor’s debt. So we are borrowing money from overseas to put into an aid budget to send back overseas so what we have done is made the aid budget sustainable and responsible and affordable.
By targeting the funding to areas most in need like health, education, infrastructure – productivity enhancing infrastructure – governance and accountability – so we don’t waste the aid budget – and empowering women and girls, I think we will see some real outcomes. I am disturbed to think that we have spent billions and billions of dollars on aid in the past, yet in our own region countries aren’t going to meet with Millennium Development Goals. This way I believe we will get much better outcomes and be accountable to the Australian taxpayer for the funding.
JOURNALIST: We all understand the debt problem – it has been talked about a lot and the need to reduce it. But wouldn’t it be better to take from the billions of dollars we are spending on fighter jets rather than from the countries that are in desperate need of our help?
JULIE BISHOP: What we have done with our aid budget is invest $5 billion in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Pacific. I believe this is a substantial, significant aid budget – it puts us in the top 10 in the OECD countries. We are the second largest aid donor in our region – second only to Japan – and working in partnership with other countries means we can leverage up the money that we have available so we are going to get a lot better outcomes in health, in education, in poverty reduction, in lifting standards of living and it is sustainable because we are driving economic growth.
You just have to look at examples like China or South Korea that were aid recipient countries but through economic growth have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. In fact, China’s aid budget is now the same size as Australia’s. So we want to turn countries in our region from aid recipients to more prosperous, stable and secure economies and indeed become aid donors themselves.
JOURNALIST: Julie can we just move to Iraq – ISIS are getting closer and closer to Baghdad. Has our Embassy been evacuated?
JULIE BISHOP: No our Embassy is still open. I have downsized the numbers but we have a core staff in the Embassy in Baghdad. I spoke to our Ambassador recently – she said the situation is tense but calm and we certainly have in place evacuation plans, contingency plans. But my message more broadly – if you are an Australian citizen in Iraq you should leave immediately while the Baghdad airport is still open and commercial flights are still travelling. Please leave if you are in Baghdad if you are in Iraq because with a much smaller staff in our Embassy we just can’t provide the kind of consular support that you might otherwise expect.
JOURNALIST: Even Leonardo DiCaprio is criticising the state of the Great Barrier Reef. Have a look at what he had to say:
“It is my very first dive in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia twenty years ago to the dive I got to do in the very same location just two years ago, I have witnessed environmental devastation first hand. What once looked like an endless underwater utopia is now riddled with bleached coral reefs and massive dead zones.”
Julie are you worried we are going to lose the World Heritage Standing?
JULIE BISHOP: That won’t occur and I am very interested in Leonardo DiCaprio’s qualifications to make expert judgements on the state of the Great Barrier Reef – I must have missed when he did a marine biology course. There you go, if you are a celebrity you can pontificate on any subject any time and be deemed an expert.
JOURNALIST: Julie have you been to the Great Barrier Reef lately?
JULIE BISHOP: Not this week, no.
JOURNALIST: Fair enough.
JOURNALIST: Julie onto something entirely different – you are the Foreign Minister so you are obviously concerned about things in other countries. What are you going to do about the 11 Australians under serious threat from 11 Dutchmen tonight?
JULIE BISHOP: That is a very good question – just cheer for the Aussies.
JOURNALIST: Is that going to be enough Julie?
JOURNALIST: For anyone who is worried, we are talking about soccer.
JOURNALIST: Julie, one of your Government’s Assistance Ministers Jamie Briggs was on Sky this morning. He wanted to brag about one of your big wins but got it a tad wrong. Take a look:
“Hang on, tomorrow, six months – six months since the last successful people smuggling exhibition to Australia.”
I was just wondering Julie, could you tell us exactly where this exhibition will be?
JULIE BISHOP: That was just a little tongue twister to test if you are all on your game – he was just testing.
JOURNALIST: Well we hopefully all on our game as are you tonight – you have a lot on your plate – thank you for joining us tonight.
JULIE BISHOP: It has been my pleasure.
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