We should be proud of our response to the Haiti quake
As the rescue operation in Haiti begins to shift to one of recovery, the global community is now beginning to see the true scale of the disaster which has struck the tiny Carribean nation. Natural disasters such as the Haitian earthquake, the Samoan and Tongan tsunami of last year and the Asian tsunami of 2004 always bring out a truly astounding expression of a shared humanity.
Natural disasters bring poverty to the fore but the fact is extreme poverty is a daily reality for far too many people around the world.
25,000 children will die today from preventable diseases, 900 million people around the world will go to sleep hungry tonight, and tomorrow 1.4billion people will be forced to survive on less than US$1.25 for the day – more than two-thirds of them women and children.
The events of the last eight days have thrown stark light on the crippling poverty of the Haitian people; their plight, even before the earthquake, was a product of their history and geography. President Obama’s promise to the Haitian people that they will not be forsaken and the injection of emergency and long-term aid by the international community will mean Haiti remains on the global radar for years to come.
As the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, I’m proud of the Australian Government’s response to the crisis in Haiti. To date, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has annouced $15 million in aid for Haiti, comprising $10 million for immediate humanitarian needs and $5 million for long-term reconstruction assistance following UN assessments of the requirements. This complements Australia’s $60 million development assistance package to the CARICOM commnunity of Carribbean nations, annouced in November of 2009, which will include support to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
As an Australian, I’m equally proud of the generous spirit shown by my fellow citizens toward the people of Haiti. At last count, the various Haitian earthquake charity appeals had received over $4.3 million from everyday Australians. This figure excludes the significant donations made by Australian companies to the appeals.
I’m proud but I’m not surprised by the generous spirit of Australians.
A recent survey conducted by the BBC World Service of 25,000 people from 23 countries ranked extreme poverty as the number one serious issue facing the world, with 71 per cent of those surveyed saying it was the most important issue. Of the 1000 Australians surveyed, 74 per cent ranked extreme poverty as the most serious issue facing the world.
In 2007, the Rudd Labor Government went to the election promising action on global poverty, establishing for the first time in Australian history a commitment to lifting the quality and quantity of Australia’s international development assistance performance to the intermediate UN target of 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income. To put this in context, under the previous government Australia’s overseas development assistance budget stagnated at 0.3 per cent of Gross National Income.
The 2007 election was significant as for the first time in Australian history combating global poverty became an election issue, even if only in a few marginal seats. At meetings around the country Australians showed they wanted a Government committed to taking action on global poverty, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it is in the national interest.
Although I won’t be contesting this years election, you can be sure I will be calling on all sides of the political divide to make a genuine, bipartisan and lasting committment to tackle global poverty.
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