Australia, this is where your aid goes
I’d like to share with you an article (‘Australia, this is where your aid goes’ October 3, 2012) written by Simon Benson for the News Limited Network:
Bob Carr pops up in the most unusual of places.
But yesterday the Foreign Affairs Minister went to extraordinary lengths even by his standards, flying straight from a week of intense lobbying in New York for a seat on the UN Security Council to Mongolia to visit an Australian funded kindergarten for severely disabled children.
With the Government under fire for the alleged largesse of it’s bid for a Security Council seat, Mr Carr denied Australia was in an aid-for-votes race with Luxembourg and Finland, claiming the Government had spent a fraction of what the European nations had.
Australia has two people dedicated to the bid with an official budget of $25 million – estimated to have blown out to $40 million – while Luxembourg is believed to have 10 dedicated staff in its UN mission in New York spending an estimated $120 million on wooing other nations to back it.
Finland is said to have an even larger contingent working on its campaign.
Mr Carr yesterday visited the disabled learning centre, staffed by Australian volunteers, in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator to see how just $1.25 million of aid to Mongolia had helped transform the lives of hundreds of the most disadvantaged and impoverished children in one of the most remote regions of the world.
“Where else in the world could you be standing and claim to be proud of Australian aid than right here,” Mr Carr said after visiting the centre with wife Helena.
“This is about being a good neighbour.
“This is in Australians’ interest…87 per cent of our aid gets spent in Asia-Pacific… and this gives confirmation to that… it is Australians helping Mongolians help themselves, lifting their capacity to look after their kids. That is part of the Australian character.”
The consul-general in Ulan Bator, David Lawson, denied the work Australia was doing in Mongolia had anything to do with the UN security council seat.
“Other counties build bridges, we invest in people and the payback is tenfold,” he said.
“The other point is now because Australia’s education system is valued and trusted so much that they seek our help to develop their education and vocational systems to build this country.
“It is rewarding to see how they have benefited from scholarship programs which have been provided in Australia since 1994… it has enriched the lives of hundreds of people and the good that will bring from that will go on for generations.”
Mr Carr defended the budgeted cost of the UN bid and the obvious expansion of aid since 2008 to countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America – since Kevin Rudd launched Australia’s bid for the seat. But he said the aid increase to Africa was directly proportionate to the large amounts of investment going into the countries from our mining sector.
“Even if we were to lose, it’s money still well spent. There is $70 billion in mining investment there, it is entirely appropriate that we provide 1000 scholarships a year to people who will be Africa’s future leaders,” he said.
Mr Carr is only the third Australian foreign minister to visit Mongolia, a country sandwiched by super powers China and Russia. He has made no secret that he would be seeking Mongolia’s vote before the October 18 decision in which 193 member countries of the UN will choose two non-permanent members for 2013-2014.