Shifting aid money around as a sweetener for PNG reopening Manus Island is an inappropriate use of aid money, said Greens spokesperson for overseas aid Senator Lee Rhiannon.
Senator Rhiannon was responding to this morning's announcement that Australia will target an increase in aid for PNG to upgrade roads, schools and hospitals on Manus Island under a deal with the PNG government to host a refugee processing centre.
"The fact that the announcement was made by the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen not the Foreign Affairs Minister speaks volumes about the real reason for this aid allocation", said Senator Rhiannon.
"Spending aid money to grease the wheels of offshore processing is inappropriate and distorts Australia's overseas aid program.
"PNG struggles with poverty, ill-health, violence against women and one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the region. Aid should be targeted to alleviate poverty and empower local communities.
"Upgrading roads and hospitals on Manus Island would be a necessary step to reopen the detention centre. While these upgrades will have incidental benefits for locals, it is a farce to pretend that this aid would be provided if Australia were not keen to reopen the Manus Island processing centre.
"Manus Island locals deserve compensation and assistance but this should not be passed off by the Australian government as aid.
"The Howard government used the aid budget to prop up the "Pacific Solution", reportedly spending $27 million in aid money on detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. Labor was critical of this when they were in Opposition.
"I pushed Foreign Minister Bob Carr in the Senate in August on this issue and I am still waiting for AusAID to answer my question to detail exactly how much aid has been allocated to Manus Island over the previous four years", said Senator Rhiannon.