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Motion: Overseas Aid and the Gavi Program

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (17:07): I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the response by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that has just been tabled.

Leave granted.

Senator RHIANNON: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs is partly informative but certainly most disappointing. Just to refresh senators' memories, the foreign minister was responding to a motion of the Greens that was passed that urged the government to make an urgent pledge of an additional $125 million to the global fund. The global fund is part of the work of the Gavi alliance, a proven global initiative that is making such a difference to people's lives—saving millions of lives, in fact, because it focuses on vaccines for men, women and children, particularly in low-income countries. What we heard from the minister was that some commitment remains, and she set out the commitment of $200 million over three years to support the global fund. But the minister also stated that the government will not make a further contribution during the current funding period. This really is a very serious setback, because it is estimated that the Gavi programs can prevent nearly four million deaths in the coming period. It is a program that very much needs our continued support.

Gavi is one of the most impressive of the international organisations, bringing together both public and private funding in a very organised way that is making a huge difference in terms of the health of people in developing countries. It was back in 2010 that the Gavi board came up with a five-year strategy, which is due to end in 2015. Again, it brings us back to the failure of this government to inject the money that was requested into that important work. The full implementation of the work over the five-year period comes under a number of strategic goals, and it is worth going through that because it underlines how this work is undertaken and why it is so effective.

Firstly, obviously they work to increase the use of under-used and new vaccines by strengthening the country in which they are working—strengthening their decision-making and effectively their democratic processes. Then there is the issue around the health system itself. They work to strengthen the capacity of the health system to deliver immunisation, working in-country with those health professionals to be able to undertake this work. Then there is the all-important funding and costs. They undertake this in a very diverse and impressive way that has been shown to work, pulling in money from the public and private sectors. There are expectations that different bodies, like the Australian government, will honour their commitment and continue to make that commitment. That is why the response that we have received from the foreign minister is so disappointing.

On the funding issue, they work on increasing the predictability of global financing and improving the sustainability of national financing for immunisation, which rests on being able to predict the money that is coming in. This again goes back to the failure of the Australian government. Then they bring in the issue of vaccine markets to ensure the supply of quality vaccines at low and sustainable prices for developing countries. That overall strategy, that road map that they have developed, has been proven to be saving millions of lives. It was seen that this plan would save four million lives over the five-year period it is rolling out. Yes, it is coming to and end, but we should be there solidly, all the way.
Another voice that has been urging the government to honour this work is the peak body of Australian aid organisations, ACFID. One of their key recommendations identified the need for $225 million for the 2014-16 period to go to the Gavi alliance. They are actually putting that at $75 million. This is an organisation with dozens of aid organisations working in this area that have pooled their understanding and identified the needs in these countries, and they have shown the money that Australia should be contributing. Then on top of that there is $200 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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