I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak tonight and, like the last couple of speeches, I will focus on Australia’s work in international development. I might just pick up where the previous member left off on investment in health in our region because it is a vital part of our international development program. Certainly, as one of the co-chairs of the parliamentary caucus for TB, I know just how important that health investment is—the $17 million that we are putting into the global alliance to help tackle TB in our region. We know that there are real challenges in our area, but there are also real gains to be made. If we invest in the health of people in our region, we unlock so much potential. We unlock the ability for people to go on from that stable foundation of good health to being able to get an education and being able to work towards economic prosperity. So it, absolutely, is a vital part of our international development program.

I have had the privilege of seeing this investment in action in a number of circumstances in the Pacific. Most recently, I was in the Solomon Islands as part of a parliamentary delegation. I was pleased to be able to visit Munda to see a pathology clinic there that had been funded under the Australian government’s international development program in recognition of the need, which had become evident during the pandemic, for them to be able to do pathology testing locally and how important that was to local health services. We spoke with the doctor at the local hospital where the pathology clinic was located and heard firsthand about the benefit that it is going to provide through some wonderful machines. I’m not going to pretend I understand the technical nature of pathology testing, but the machines will be important in detecting and managing diseases in the region. There are locally trained pathologists, which, again, is fantastic. We have Australian development assistance helping people to get skills and work locally in good jobs.

When I was in that region I was also fortunate to see a childcare centre funded under Australia’s international development program. I believe it is the first of its kind in the Solomon Islands, and it is associated with one of the local factories. Recognising that women who come to work in the factory from surrounding areas may not have the traditional family structures there that would have looked after their children, this childcare centre is providing them with another option and is, therefore, providing them with a chance for economic development, stability for their family and a great start for their children. What we talk about here in Australia, in terms of how child care and early education provide our young children with the best start in life, is absolutely true for our neighbours as well. I’ve been really privileged to have had a lot of experience seeing some of this firsthand, both in my work here in this parliament and in my previous life, where for a brief period of time I also worked in international development and humanitarian aid.

It is also important to note that we get these gains through investing, and our government has made serious investments in our international development budget. Our 2024-25 budget marks an increase of $542 million compared to the previous year. In the coming year we will be providing $4.96 billion in official development assistance. This builds on the increases we’ve delivered since we came to office, and it means we will reach $5 billion of ODA in the 2025-26 financial year, one year earlier than originally planned.

The need is obviously great, but I think this budget demonstrates that our government is taking this challenge and the need seriously. We are focusing on how we can support and rebuild this budget after it was slashed under nine years of the coalition. We recognise that this investment not only gets the types of outcomes I was just talking about but also builds relationships. It shows people particularly in our Pacific region that we take our role as a good neighbour seriously and that we are prepared to put our money, our thoughtfulness and our resources behind those investments. We are doing that as well through unions that we’ve put in place. I particularly highlight the work we’ve been doing with Tuvalu on a very important agreement for both our nations, which is helping to strengthen our collective peace, security and sovereignty and, of course, putting at the forefront the pressing needs that the people of Tuvalu face with regard to climate change. I have already addressed the health challenges that we are working with our Pacific neighbours on, but it is absolutely true that climate change is a part of the health picture as well. We will stand by our Pacific neighbours and continue to invest in our relationships.


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