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PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

13 September 2005

Australia intended to double its overseas aid to 4 billion Australian dollars a year by 2010, which would be conditioned upon improved governance and reduced corruption in recipient countries, mainly those in the Asia-Pacific region, Prime Minister John Howard said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

The decision reflected Australia’s strong commitment to overseas development and was being taken in the context of the special United Nations Summit, he added. Later on, responding to a question as to how standards of improved governance and reduced corruption might be measured, he said evaluations would be made on a case-by-case basis.

He said the effectiveness of aid programmes had to be balanced with policies which would lift the underdeveloped world, adding, “It remains my strongest view that trade liberalization is more valuable to the underdeveloped world than development assistance. It was a real concern that the focus on aid levels at the Summit meeting sucked the urgency out of the debate on trade reform. The more that we elevate the importance of direct aid to the detriment of a focus on trade liberalization, the greater disservice, I think, we are doing to the least developed countries.”

In response to a question about the final lack of a reference to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the Summit outcome document, Mr. Howard said Australia was very disappointed with the progress to date. “We see issues concerning North Korea and Iran and proliferation issues are the most important items on the disarmament agenda, and if serious progress is to be made then we have to make progress in those areas.”

Asked if he thought Iran question should be brought to the Security Council, he replied that Australia supported the European Union approach in continuing discussions.

Responding to another question regarding whether he was concerned that the Summit might not produce anything substantive in terms of commitments, the Prime Minister said one had to be realistic about United Nations reform. While Australia supported enlargement of the Security Council, it was realistic in recognizing the difficulties involved.

Security Council expansion was only one of a number of significant issues where the outcome document had fallen short, another correspondent noted, asking how Australia accounted for that.

Mr. Howard replied that some of the expectations were unrealistic. “I am very pragmatic about the United Nations and I think it has been, particularly its specialized agencies, a remarkably successful institution, but clearly at the end of the day, those who believe that you can invest in one multilateral organization the potential resolution of all of the world’s difficulties are always going to be disappointed. One cannot ignore the fact that we still live in a world of nation States”, he said.

Asked if public confidence in the United Nations would be undermined if the outcome document did not strongly address management reform and public accountability, he said Australia placed a lot of importance in that area, but there had not been much progress on management issues.

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For information media • not an official record



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