Foreign aid emerges as policy difference in Aust election campaign | Asia Pacific

Foreign aid emerges as policy difference in Aust election campaign

Foreign aid emerges as policy difference in Aust election campaign

Updated 8 August 2013, 13:15 AEST

The distribution of foreign aid is emerging as a point of difference between the parties contesting next month's election in Australia.

Aid for trade will form the cornerstone of the Opposition Coalition's policy according to Julie Bishop who hopes to be Australia's next Foreign Minister.

Ms Bishop debated the incumbent, Bob Carr in the first major debate of the campaign.

Presenter: Karon Snowdon

Speaker: Julie Bishop, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Senator Bob Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister

SNOWDON: Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his Opposition counterpart Julie Bishop have gone head to head at a sold out event hosted by the Lowy Institute of International Affairs in Sydney.
Julie Bishop highlighted her different approach to foreign aid.
BISHOP: We will make aid for trade a cornerstone of our aid policy. We will put in place benchmarks, performance benchmarks against which our aid budget, our aid spending will be judged to ensure that we have the most efficient and the most effective use of our aid budget and the best value for money not only for our taxpayers but for the recipients.
SNOWDON:  Ms Bishop said a Coalition government would promote sustainable economic growth rather than,  in her words, aid handouts.
Bob Carr took that policy focus to task.
CARR: You've got to be careful about linking aid to trade. When we say we'll wipe out malaria in the Solomon Islands by 2020, it's got nothing to do with trade, it's got everything to do with rescuing people from a devastated life. It's Australia doing the right thing because we're a decent country with decent values and our behaviour overseas reflects that character. 
SNOWDON: Minister Bob Carr added Labor's support for Palestine and family planning in developing countries as other points of difference.
The Coalition's foreign policy focus will be an economic one with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade assuming a more prominent role.
BISHOP: Foreign policy will be trade policy, trade policy will be foreign policy.
SNOWDON:  If the Coalition wins the September 7 election, a first order priority will be free trade agreements with China, India, South Korea and Japan.
For both sides of politics the US Alliance remains the the most important strategic one.
And the Pacific is high on Julie Bishop's agenda.
BISHOP:  I want us to be the partner of choice for countries in the Pacific, with Fiji we will commence the process of re-establishing the relationship with our wonderful friends, the people of Fiji. 
CARR:  Well we are the partner of choice because every nation in the Pacific apart from Fiji voted for us in that UN Security Council ballot, and because they look to Australia.
SNOWDON: Deepening relations with ASEAN and the importance of Indonesia were emphasised by both debaters.
China is a constant for foreign policy pundits as well as ministers and ministers in waiting.
The Coalition believes China's rise will be peaceful and bound by growing economic and trade ties, including with the United States.
Bob Carr says the best approach to settle territorial tensions will be through an agreement for the sharing of resources in the areas under dispute.
It's the approach favoured by China which has multiple conflicting maritime claims with Japan and much of South East Asia 
Mr Carr described the disputes as intractable and a threat to the region's peace and well being.
CARR:  Australia should be saying quietly there is merit in setting aside the dispute over sovereignty and striking an agreement to develop the resources in dispute and to split the proceeds. I think a great deal of the region will depend on whether China develops as a nation educated about the rest of the world and quietly confident in its own judgements and working with multilateral institutions....or whether China becomes insular and even paranoid and therefore over assertive. And we've got an interest in continuing and deepening our engagement with China to achieve to the extent we can influence it, a happier outcome. 
SNOWDON: A debate on Australia's foreign policy wouldn't be complete in the current political climate without the topic of asylum seekers.
BISHOP: This is Labor's greatest policy failing and it is a fact that for Labor to demand of PNG and Nauru that they permanently resettle the asylum seekers, then that will cause massive challenges in the Pacific. I do not believe that Labor have even thought through the impact of this policy. 
CARR: Of course Tony Abbott says he won't change the policy. Tony Abbott has said the agreement with PNG stays in place. And two other corrections, PNG and Nauru have opted to be part of the regional resettlement arrangement.

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