THE drought is terrible and our farmers need and deserve our support.
It's disappointing that the plight of our framers has given rise to a debate about foreign aid. While $4 billion annually is a lot of money by any measure, it represents a very small part of the Commonwealth budget and is money well spent. There are at least five reasons we should continue to make a contribution.
First, it's the right thing to do. Morality demands we join with other wealthy nations in making a contribution in support of the billions of people around the world who regularly go without food, clean water, shelter, health care, sanitation, an education or all of the above. Second, doing so earns us enormous levels of goodwill in the international community. That goodwill in turn builds relationships and improves of trading opportunities.
Third, our foreign aid helps to keep developing countries stable, which reduces the number of people trying to flee to other countries including Australia. It also helps us to avoid joining military operations in failing nation-states. That cost can be much greater than is the investment we make in foreign aid. Fourth, most of our foreign aid goes to our near-neighbours. It is important the nation-states which surround us are able to deal with internal upheaval or foreign invasion. They are in a sense, our last line of defence. Fifth, to be a healthy Australia we need the world to be relatively free of disease. Outbreaks originating in nearby countries in particular, have the potential to spread here. Many years ago Australia pledged to join the community of wealthy nations in committing to spending the equivalent of half of one per cent of our gross national income on foreign aid. We currently spend less than three per cent.
Helping others is a sound investment and we should be doing more, not less. I'm sure our farmers would agree.
This Sunday the 23rd Annual Memorial Day Service will be held at the mining union's Aberdare Road Cessnock headquarters. I know the service is appreciated by family members who have lost one or more loved one. The service is open to members of the public and will be held at 10.30am. I thank the Union for continuing to provide the opportunity to reflect on the loss of more than 1,800 miners who are listed on the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall. Let us pray not one more is added.