Page 352 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 15 February 2005

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MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer and Minister for Economic Development): Very briefly, I support this motion, having witnessed first hand the reaction and response of Canberrans which was, I have to say, truly magnificent. After the various pieces of film recording the disaster, there was a second level of reportage of the children who were instantly orphaned, the parents who lost their children, and those people who were dispossessed, both of home and of livelihood—and Canberrans responded generously. But I detected, as I met with various people and attended some of the services, that there was also frustration. People wanted to do more. It was an event of such magnitude and it touched people so firmly that people wanted to jump on a plane, go over there and start doing something physical. People here wanted to adopt the orphans, they wanted the red tape slashed and burnt. They just wanted to do something themselves.

Hopefully we were able to communicate that a lot was being done in their name. Although there might be room for one or two individuals to go over and do something at ground zero, most of it had to be done through some structure and with respect for the sovereignty of the nations and regions that were impacted. The emotion that came through to me was pride in people’s frustration. I have given money, but I have not expunged from my soul the feeling I have. People would still like to have done more. I hope that through what has been done at a national level and by the various states and territories, mainly through organised structures, that people feel that as much as possible has been done or offered by Australia and by the territory in their name.

At the end of the day, we can support the recovery effort by making sure that we consider these areas for our holidays and do not write them off. We can return to these tourist destinations—or business destinations if we happen to be in business. I do not think the social security systems in some of those nations is quite up to ours and many livelihoods were literally washed away and have to be rebuilt from absolute zero.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo): The tsunami of Boxing Day 2004 was a disaster the extent of which we cannot yet fully comprehend. Much has already been said today and more will be said, and I endorse the sentiments of my colleagues. In my speech I want to put the tsunami and subsequent relief and humanitarian efforts into a global development context. I also want to consider the kinds of assistance that might be most useful to the most disadvantaged groups. Poor women are usually at the bottom of these categories so today I give them the special attention they usually do not get. On Boxing Day we probably all felt a little guilty and very helpless as we viewed our own comfort against the destruction and sudden homelessness we saw on our screens or heard about on our radios. Many of us did what we could most usefully do. We reached into our pockets, somewhat depleted by the Christmas splurge, and gave whatever money we could afford.

Those of us who often disagree with the federal government’s foreign policy and criticise the government for its declining levels of aid were cautiously optimistic about its generous promises to the Indonesian and other governments affected by the tsunami. But now the media spotlight has moved on, who will measure the impact of that aid on the lives of the people affected? Has our aid trickled down to those who needed it most, both before and after the event? Let us look at that aid. Much development assistance is given as tied aid. Aid that benefits donors may be inappropriate for recipients. For example, Australia and the US are more likely to give away wheat, which they have in abundance, even though the staple of the affected communities is rice. Similarly, imported building

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