CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Papua New Guinea needs to show that it has a responsibility to make sure that all monies are spent wisely at the highest levels of accountability, and this is a responsibility that they have currently and would have in the future. Since the 1990s, we have been operating on the basis of agreed activities, rather than direct budget support.
BRUCE HILL: Well, the reason we changed the system from direct budgetary support to targeting development assistance was that a lot of that money was disappearing through corruption. Are those concerns still there – that if we went back to the old system, wouldn’t that still happen again?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well Bruce, we have been a long-term supporter of Papua New Guinea. But what is very critical is that all aid – whether it is in Papua New Guinea or any other part of the Pacific, or wherever Australian Aid Overseas Development Assistance is spent – is done in a way that Australian tax payers see value for money and they see a benefit to Australia. The Defence White Paper told us that after the defence of Australia, the stability and security of our region is paramount, second only to the defence of Australia. And so for Australians, it is very important that whatever assistance we render to countries, in the form of overseas development assistance, does meet this criteria and that it is value for money.
BRUCE HILL: But if the PNG Government want to go back to the old system of direct budgetary support and you say no, as it appears you are going to, they are not going to be very happy are they?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well as we have said, we will look at it, but since the 1990s, we have had a series of agreed priorities. We value our long-standing ties with Papua New Guinea. We are regional partners, we are neighbours, we have a shared history, we have a shared geography, and for us a strong, stable and prosperous Papua New Guinea is very important. We are neighbours, we are close partners, but we also have a framework, which has been a successful framework, existing since the 1990s, where we agree on a set of priorities. And those priorities are delivered in accordance with a Papua New Guinea-Australia Aid Partnership Agreement.
BRUCE HILL: You have said that aid is not charity. Obviously, no country gives foreign aid out of the goodness of their hearts; they are trying to achieve something. What is it that Australia is trying to achieve, with its aid to Papua New Guinea, and if so, is it working?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Obviously, our program of assistance to Papua New Guinea is to ensure that Papua New Guinea prospers, that it is peaceful and that it is secure. Our aid is directed towards this spending, and indeed, when you look at the parameters of the last partnership agreement, there were some very, very specific areas where we targeted spending under that program. And it was in the health area, and of course we know we have just had, last week, World TB Day – and of course Papua New Guinea has 28,000 cases of tuberculosis a year and of course drug-resistant TB in Western Provinces is a concern. Health of course is an important sector for us. Education, law and justice, transport and governance: these were the priorities that we agreed to. So as I said, it is an agreement that is entered into between two governments with adequate performance benchmarks with governance and all sorts of parameters associated with it, and that is what we have been doing since the 1990s. And certainly, from my own personal perspective, it is something we have been doing with other countries in the Pacific and I believe that it is the appropriate way to go.
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