Well thank you very very much Ewen for your kind introduction, yes I do, I have more than one tee-shirt actually.

But I think to you and to your point, one of the things that is really important in everything that I have done- it is one thing to sort of sit in the office and think about things and develop policy and do all that and then actually see it in action.

We know that particularly on the climate front it is about building resilience, it is about those practical things, it is often about as we were looking at managing rivers and managing river flows.

So it is really important to see that and that was very very useful so I will continue to do that and collect tee-shirts along the way.

Can I also add my acknowledgement of country as we begin today's events.

It is a great pleasure to be here to launch the Australian Government's inaugural Aid Suppliers Conference.

Can I thank you Ewen and the other representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for making today a possibility.

It is also encouraging to see so many of Australia's partners for the delivery of our overseas development assistance (ODA) here today.

Can I extend a very warm welcome to you all.

As we know, the challenges of international development in our region are complex and require strong partnership between the Australian Government and a diverse range of delivery partners, and they include: commercial contractors, development banks, universities, multilateral institutions, and non-government organisations.

However, we must not forget that the most valuable and critical partner is the Australian people.

It is their tax dollars that make our international development assistance program possible.

This year it is their $3.8 billion dollars of overseas development assistance investments, many of which you deliver, that make our region safe, secure and more prosperous.

Recent surveys show that it is not always easy for the public to see where their investments go.

So when Australians are asked to estimate how much the Government spends on aid - that is the common parlance that they understand and I will come to that distinction in a moment - they often estimate a higher dollar figure or proportion of government revenue than is actually the case.

It was also found that many Australians believe that our aid budget should reflect our tight budgetary environment.

Now some Australians are asking why we are spending money on our neighbours at a time when their economies are growing and their prosperity is rising.

As a result, the political paradigm within which we now operate has changed dramatically.

One only has to listen.

What is happening here in Australia and clearly you have all seen political paradigm has changed, particularly in the Senate where I am a member.

We have also seen events overseas that have changed the perspective with which assistance is seen.

So for me, and for us, the question is no longer what are we spending our money on, it is why are we spending our money, but more importantly what is the direct benefit to Australia.

So that is the prism within which we now see our spending in overseas development assistance.

We need to make it very clear to the Australian public why it is good for their government and their taxes to be used for development abroad.

In short, this requires us to promote our work, not just at home –but mostly at home.

Of course abroad we have been promoting our work.

But the focus now shifts from what we are doing, and necessarily a stronger message abroad particularly in the countries where we operate, but more importantly at home.

What are we doing, more importantly why are we doing it, but very importantly what is the direct benefit to the Australian public, because we need to take the Australian public with us.

We need to make very very clear to them, why it is in their national interest for us to be spending this year $3.8 billion.

Contributions from the Australian public to international development it helps our region, it helps the Indo-Pacific, it helps our region to be more peaceful, more democratic, better governed and following the rule of law.

I am very committed to this work, but I need your help to make sure that we can do it better.

This requires regular, substantive, and above all, effective communication.

Since becoming the Minister for International Development and the Pacific - this week is my first year anniversary so I am very very pleased, my one year birthday - I have taken the opportunity and I thank you for the opportunities that many of you have afforded me and the time that you have given me in direct dialogue communication and exchange of ideas.

Your purpose, but more importantly your independence from the Australian Government means that your voice can be more powerful, and your voice can more powerfully explain why ODA is so important.

The vital message is 'aid' as the Australian public see it, is not charity, it is development assistance and there is a difference.

And it's really that difference that I think that we need to communicate better to the Australian public.

We have a great story to tell them.

In the recent decades, a billion people have been lifted out of poverty.

Billions more have been enabled to connect with each other and to a world of knowledge and aspiration that was barely imaginable a generation ago.

As Minister, I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the absolutely wonderful impact that this has had on people often in very very remote areas.

For example, last year when the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall in the Pacific hit Fiji, Tropical Cyclone Winston, the collective response from the Government, the Australian people and our partners was swift and effective.

We deployed the Australian Defence Forces: planes, ships, helicopters and around 1,000 personnel to help the Fijian Government and non-government organisations get supplies and assistance to where it was most needed.

We continue to work closely with the Fijian Government towards the spending of our $20 million long-term recovery package.

This is going towards repairing and rebuilding schools and health facilities that were damaged or destroyed by the cyclone, restoring water and sanitation services, repairing and rebuilding damaged markets and accommodation for vendors and most importantly 75% of these were women.

This is in addition to the initial $15 million that we contributed to support the immediate response efforts, where we helped around 200,000 people with relief supplies such as shelter, water, food, hygiene items, as well as emergency health care and education.

And I will be visiting Fiji, I leave on Sunday as we mark the first anniversary of this devastating event, but also to see the work that we have done on the ground and how that is progressing.

Our ODA is an investment in not just our region but in the future of Australia.

But like any investment, Australians want to see good value for money and good returns on the money that they spend.

And this is why performance management is absolutely vital.

That is why we have established a very robust performance framework.

This enables the Australian public to be confident that our overseas development assistance program is delivering those results in the best interest of the Australian taxpayer.

In 2014-15, we successfully achieved most of our performance targets. 

In particular the target of working with effective partners – many of whom are here today.

This target was achieved through the introduction of Partner Performance Assessments, a strengthened Multilateral Performance Assessment process for multilateral organisations receiving core funding, reforms to systems for assessing performance under the Australian-NGO Cooperation program, and linking performance payments in aid agreements.

This is a positive outcome all Australians can be proud of.

Often integrity, performance and accountability are seen as rather dry subjects, but they are fundamental to government expenditure, to fiscal responsibility and to our responsibility to the Australian taxpayer.

It is good to see that the conference has sessions on the integrity of our overseas development assistance program.

Because we must all make sure that our investments are as effective as possible.

This underpins trust with our partners, and also that of the Australian public in the effectiveness of the ODA program.

Government and suppliers must have high expectations of one another and very frank communication, not only to ensure that our ODA is effective, but that we can demonstrate that it is effective.

Again, communication is the key to making sure, not only that we meet the high standards expected of us, but that we are able to demonstrate that fact in the appropriate way, and in good time.

I recognise that your work on behalf of the Australian Government is not only scrutinised domestically, but is often matched with scrutiny from our partner governments and their citizens.

It is a very real challenge that you face to work in accordance with the customs and requirements of two or more nations.

As a sector, your strong record in balancing those delicate challenges is very much to be commended, and I thank you and congratulate you for that.

An important contribution to this achievement is the effective and robust relationships you have in those partner countries.

These relationships are an essential part of the Australian Government's wider effort to shape our international relations.

Speaking of our international relations, as you know the Australian Government is preparing a Foreign Policy White Paper.

This will establish a comprehensive whole-of-government framework to guide Australia's international engagement over the next five to ten years.

The White Paper will outline how we can do a number of things including:

  • advancing Australia's relations with our international partners;
  • strengthening global governance to reinforce international law and economic openness;
  • supporting multilateral and regional organisations;
  • how we best pursue Australia's economic interests and guard against risks in a changing global environment and a changing global economy;
  • mitigating and responding to the risks of strategic competition and instability in the Indo-Pacific, including through our ODA;
  • best usage of our assets to pursue our international interests; and
  • working more effectively with non-government sectors, including business.

And in all of this, you, the supplier community, can help. 

Let me explain how we think that that can be done.

One of our aims in building relations with other countries is to increase mutual understanding and trust.

Countries that trust Australians and the suppliers of Australian ODA will be more likely to do business with Australia and they will be more likely to respond to our interests.

So each of your relationships overseas is a piece in the mosaic of our foreign policy.

Each of your successes overseas builds goodwill, but also fulfils the trust that the relevant partner government puts in Australia as a provider of ODA.

Outcomes are important, but we all know that relationships are much much more than outcomes.

Good relationships have an intrinsic value. 

Our ODA suppliers are informal ambassadors for Australia.

Inevitably, particular individuals and organisations can come and go.

Yet, our ODA program endures, carrying each of our reputations with it.

Our response to this should be a quiet pride, by all means, but also a determination to uphold the legacy and improve it where we can.

I would like to acknowledge and register my appreciation of this independence from our Government.

In this room, there is a range of passionately held views about what our priorities and methods should be.

These differences in emphasis are vitally important to good policy development.

I encourage you to express them fully as part of the Foreign Policy White paper process and in all your interactions with DFAT officers.

At the same time, I would ask you to be aware of the overriding rationale of the Australian overseas development assistance program and how your particular work can further those objectives.

I know that many of you have international interests and even international affiliations, but you are also representatives of Australia, when you deliver our ODA program.

Beyond your role as ambassadors for Australia many of you, if not most of you, are also ambassadors for the private sector. 

This is so important to the Australian Government because it is through the work of the private sector in our region that growth, prosperity and development will come. 

We in the Government are determined to work with business in delivering development.

For example, our aid for trade investments are supporting over 1,400 small businesses in developing countries to access trade finance.

Imagine the problems that will be solved and the incomes generated from 1,400 entrepreneurs getting a start they otherwise might not have had, and then multiply that effect.

Of course, the public sector can also be innovative.

Just this week the Foreign Minister announced a $9.5 million partnership with the ANU and the International Women's Development Agency, to apply their Individual Deprivation Measure.

This innovation will improve understanding of the work we do and provide new development statistics.

Studying how individuals move in and out of poverty enables us to more accurately understand how poverty impacts differently on men and women, and on individuals of different ages.

As our use of this data develops, we will be better able to target our efforts to reduce poverty.

We will also be able to measure our successes more accurately.

Ladies and gentlemen, as Prime Minister Turnbull has said, the Australian way is to have a go and to lend a hand.

Can I thank you, and conclude with two points.

We all have a very important responsibility to implement our overseas development assistance program on behalf of the Australian people.

And as the Defence White Paper which was released last year said; the defence of Australia is our highest priority, but the prosperity and stability of our region is second only to the defence of Australia.

This ladies and gentlemen is the paradigm within which I as Minister for International Development and the Pacific operate, and the parameters within which the Australian Government delivers its overseas development assistance.

So thank you very much for your kind attention and I wish you all the best in the conference.

Thank you.

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