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AusAID restrictions must not be subject to ministerial whim

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says that restrictions that were lifted today on AusAID funding for family planning programs must never again be able to be reinstated by the minister of the day.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith this morning announced that the Family Planning Guidelines would be revised, lifting restrictions on Australian foreign aid going to some family planning services that had been in place since a 1996 deal between former Senator Brian Harradine and Prime Minister John Howard.

“The Greens welcome the lifting of these restrictions, as this move will save lives,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“Ninety-nine per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries – including 34,000 per year in our region alone due to a lack of maternal health support.

“These deaths impact greatly on the children, families and communities left behind.

“It’s just a shame that it took more than twelve months for the Rudd Government to come to this conclusion, when US President Barack Obama removed his country’s ‘global gag rule’ within his very first week in the job.”

Senator Hanson-Young said a legislative change should be made to ensure that the restrictions could not be reinstated via ministerial discretion.

“Never again should these restrictions be able to implemented at the ideological whim of a minister of the day,” she said.

“I urge the Government to take on the Greens’ proposed amendment to Appropriation Bill (No. 3), which would make restrictions such as these unlawful, and guaranteeing that Australian aid funds can flow fairly to those who need it.”

Senator Hanson-Young also called on the Government to increase Australia’s proportion of GDP that goes to foreign aid.

“For the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to be achieved, we must up Australia’s foreign aid spending to 0.7% of GDP,” she said.

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