The Hon. Duncan Kerr SC MP
The Hon Duncan Kerr SC MP
Former Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Media Release

with the Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
and the Hon Bob McMullan MP, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance

May 13, 2008

2008-09 International Development Assistance Budget 

The 2008-09 Budget lays the foundation for implementing the Government’s long‑term commitment to increase Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015-16.

Australia will provide an estimated $3.7 billion in ODA in 2008-09, increasing Australia’s ratio of ODA to GNI from 0.30 per cent in 2007‑08 to 0.32 per cent in 2008‑09.  The Government expects to increase Australia’s ODA to levels equivalent to 0.35 per cent of GNI in 2009-10, 0.37 per cent of GNI in 2010-11 and 0.38 per cent of GNI in 2011-12. 

The new measures contained in this Budget give effect to the Government’s election commitments to address climate change adaptation needs, establish Australian leadership on disability and eliminating avoidable blindness and improve access to clean water and sanitation. 

The 2008-09 Budget increases the focus of the program on practical development outcomes, promoting faster progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and greater attention to alleviating the situation of the vulnerable.

In 2008-09 Australia will scale up expenditure in major sectors influencing MDG outcomes, including education (up 5 per cent), health (up 8 per cent), rural development (up 7 per cent), environment (up 7 per cent) and infrastructure (up 17 per cent).  Assistance to help the most vulnerable, particularly those who suffer disability or who are refugees or victims of humanitarian crisis, will also increase.

Budget Highlights

Making faster progress towards the MDGs

The Australian Government is committed to helping developing country partners attain the MDGs.  Most developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region can claim progress in meeting some of the MDGs, however, none is on course to achieve them all.  Making faster progress on the MDGs requires a concerted and well-coordinated global response. 

Australia‘s development assistance helps partners expand economic activity to create jobs and raise incomes, combat disease and improve nutrition, raise basic educational attainment, and improve the responsiveness and accountability of the state in meeting citizens’ basic needs.

The Government will increase Australia’s multilateral engagement, through increased multilateral development financing and a major increase of $200 million over four years in Australia’s core funding for key UN agencies leading efforts to achieve the MDGs.

New multi-year allocations are made to improve access to clean water and basic sanitation ($300 million over three years) and to meet high priority climate adaptation needs in vulnerable countries ($150 million over three years), implementing the election commitments made by the Government.

Priority will be given to helping the Pacific and Papua New Guinea achieve the MDGs through expanded assistance in 2008-09.  New programs focusing on infrastructure development, land administration and public sector capacity building will contribute to the Pacific Partnerships for Development outlined in the Prime Minister’s March 2008 Port Moresby Declaration. The partnerships will provide a new framework for Australia and the Pacific island nations to commit jointly to achieving improved development outcomes, on the basis of mutual respect and mutual responsibility.

Addressing the needs of the vulnerable

Action to address disadvantage and vulnerability is essential to alleviating poverty in our region. The most vulnerable include those who suffer disability or who are refugees or victims of humanitarian crisis.  They are cut off from access to basic services and the opportunity to improve their quality of life.

A significant scaling up in assistance for some of the most vulnerable - those suffering avoidable blindness and people with disabilities - will commence in 2008-09, piloting approaches to better eye and vision care and developing a strategy for addressing disability needs through the development assistance program.

Increasing assistance will be provided to new partners including Iraq and Afghanistan in transition from conflict. Increased assistance will support vulnerable civilian populations and help underpin reconstruction.

Further details on development assistance initiatives in the 2008-09 Budget are provided below.

Access to Clean Water and Effective Sanitation

Australia will invest $300 million over three years, with $8 million in 2008‑09, to address the critical challenge to health and wellbeing posed by inadequate access to clean water and sanitation.

This initiative will improve access for the poor to clean water and effective sanitation in urban, peri-urban and rural areas and provide more predictable water supply by protecting fresh water sources.  Better management of water resources and improved sanitation will reduce the transmission of disease and lead to improved health for poor people, particularly women and children. 

Adaptation to Climate Change

Australia will invest $150 million over three years, with $35 million in 2008‑09, to meet urgent climate change adaptation needs in vulnerable countries in Australia’s region. 

Funding will support improved scientific information on climate change impacts, more effective strategic planning and vulnerability assessments and the implementation of high priority adaptation measures, for example, by better protecting infrastructure from extreme weather events and securing fresh water supplies.  Funding will increase planning and investment in responses that reduce the vulnerability of communities.  Support will address specific country and regional needs, for example, better management of the Mekong river basin, better urban planning in the mega-cities of Asia,  and measuring sea level change, modelling sea inundation and assessing coastal vulnerability in Pacific island states.

Fighting Avoidable Blindness

Australia will invest $45 million over two years on meetings its election commitment to help eliminate avoidable blindness in the region and on establishing a comprehensive strategy for addressing disability in partner developing countries.

Most funding will be used to support a pilot eye and vision care program to address blindness and vision impairment, including by expanding the number of qualified eye health workers.

UN Partnership for MDGs

Australia will invest an additional $200 million over four years to strengthen partnerships with key United Nations development agencies.

Australian development assistance will boost the capacity of UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNDP, UNOCHA, and UNAIDS to lead global efforts to realise the Millennium Development Goals.  Core funding for these organisations enable Australia to contribute to work on issues as diverse as increasing child literacy, improving maternal and child health and the empowerment of women in countries beyond our own region.

Pacific Land Program

Australia will invest $54 million over four years, with $6.5 million in 2008‑09, to protect customary land rights, promote economic and social development, and reduce the potential for instability through land-related conflict in the Pacific.

Assistance will support partner government‑led improvements in land administration.  Australian funding will help address the challenges to land use and ownership from urbanisation.  Clarification of land title is a key prerequisite for private investment. Funding will also improve the skills of professionals and semi‑professionals in areas such as planning, surveying and valuing.

Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility

Australia will invest $127 million over four years, with $5.5 million in 2008-09, to improve basic infrastructure services in the Pacific.

Targeted support to Pacific island nations will address local constraints to growth and challenges to nation building and stability.  Australian funding for improved infrastructure services in both rural and urban areas including transport, water, sanitation, waste management, energy and communications will facilitate growth and enable more Pacific islanders to participate in the development process.

Investing in Pacific Public Sector Capacity

Australia will invest $107 million over four years, with $6 million in 2008-09, to strengthen public sector administration in the Pacific.

Funding will improve public sector performance by supporting management and policy reform, while also providing immediate assistance to improve individual and institutional capacity in priority areas as identified by partner governments in the region.  The inititive will address a key impediment to poverty reduction, by helping to improve service delivery and enable growth.

Afghanistan Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance

Australia will contribute $62 million in 2008-09, through AusAID, in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan to help meet the basic health, education and food needs of Afghans living in Afghanistan and the reintegration and protection of Afghans from bordering countries.

Total Australian Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Afghanistan in 2008-09 is estimated to total $122 million, including AusAID expenditure and ODA-eligible expenditure by other government departments. 

Assistance with ongoing humanitarian needs will be complemented by assistance focused on rebuilding a stable Afghanistan.  Australian assistance will strengthen the capacity, transparency and accountability of the Afghan Government and administration (including in law enforcement).

Australian assistance will help build government and civil society capacity to deliver improved basic services, promote human rights awareness and support community-led recovery.  Australia will also provide land mine risk education and removal, in addition to rehabilitation assistance for those injured by land mines.

In addition to assistance delivered at the national level, in Oruzgan Province and on the border region with Pakistan, Australia will support local reconstruction and technical training.

Iraq Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance

Australia will provide $140 million over three years, with $60 million in 2008-09, for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction priorities and to assist in building the capacity of the Iraqi Government in key sectors.

The Australian Government’s enhanced package of assistance will help meet the immediate humanitarian needs of Iraq’s vulnerable civilian population by providing access to essential food items, emergency shelter, clean water and adequate sanitation and basic health services.  It will improve Iraqi Government capacity and assist reconstruction efforts in Iraq by improving basic services, particularly in agriculture, and supporting mine risk education.

To deliver this assistance, the Government will work closely with key international humanitarian and development agencies including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Media inquiries: Mr Kerr's office - 02 6277 4991 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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