Speeches

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS; World Humanitarian Day

July 22, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (11:17): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that World Humanitarian Day will be observed on 19 August 2019;

(2) pays tribute to the aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, including those who are:

(a) directly targeted;

(b) treated as threats; and

(c) prevented from providing relief;

(3) honours the lives of those aid workers who have been killed while bringing relief and care to those in desperate need;

(4) acknowledges the millions of civilians affected by armed conflict every day, including those who struggle to access food, water, safe shelter and crucial medical assistance;

(5) further notes that the United Nations estimates that record numbers of over 65 million people are displaced from their homes around the world due to conflict;

(6) notes the Government's $11 billion in cuts to foreign aid, rendering Australia's international aid contribution as a percentage of gross domestic product at the lowest recorded level; and

(7) calls on the Government to rebuild Australia's International Development Assistance Program and increase aid investment beyond current levels.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is: what are we doing for others? That was the question posed by Martin Luther King, which succinctly puts into perspective the very reason why so many dedicated people around the world are working on humanitarian causes. I move this motion in commemoration of World Humanitarian Day, the day that the international community unites to recognise the significant work of various organisations and their people in providing humanitarian relief around the globe.

While we often reflect on the efforts of our service personnel in peacekeeping roles abroad, it is very important that we also recognise the selfless contribution of civilians on the front line in various parts of the world. For the millions of people caught up in crises and natural disasters, the families who are forced to flee their homes for uncertain futures, the vulnerable groups which are systematically targeted and, importantly, the children whose future has been placed on hold, on this day and on their behalf we pay tribute to the many aid workers who risk their lives in serving people in need. We also honour the lives of those aid workers who have been killed while bringing relief and care to those in desperate need. In particular on World Humanitarian Day, we honour the significant role that women play in the crises across the world. They are the unsung heroes who have long been working on the front lines to save others in some of the most high-risk environments. As parliamentarians we must work to ensure that they and all humanitarian workers are afforded the protections that they are so entitled to under international law.

This year's commemoration marks 16 years since the attack on the United Nations office in Baghdad, in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other fellow humanitarian workers lost their lives in the service of peace, development and human rights. Since that tragedy which led to the designation of World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, the United Nations estimates that over 4,000 aid workers have been killed, injured, detained or kidnapped. That's an average of 300 humanitarian aid workers killed, detained or injured every year.

Around the world, in conflict zones in countries including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, we're seeing people being forced in record numbers from their homes with more than 65 million people now displaced, according to recent statistics by the United Nations. These statistics put in perspective the pressing need for action in regard to Australia's role in provision of international aid. The government's $11.3 billion cuts to the Australian aid budget have delivered the weakest level of Australian development assistance in history. Our common humanity demands bipartisan commitment to this matter. We should be working towards increasing our contributions to at least 0.5 per cent of our gross national income to keep pace with other developed nations.

On World Humanitarian Day, we pay tribute to all those aid workers who have lost their lives in the service of peace, we honour their sacrifice, we mourn with their families and we carry forward their memory as we strive to resolve and prevent armed conflict and work towards a prosperous and peaceful world for all. I take this opportunity to thank all those aid organisations working across the globe in some of the most difficult conditions and environments. In particular, I acknowledge the great work of Save the Children, Oxfam, UNICEF, APHEDA, World Vision, Caritas and many, many others and the immense amount of work they do to bring relief and aid to those in need in various vastly challenged areas of our globe.

I conclude with the words of the late Sergio Vieira de Mello, which resonate strongly amidst today's climate of uncertainty and turmoil:

… security can and must be guided by upholding the rule of law and respecting human rights.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST