Plibersek says helping women is key to aid


Labor will fight any Abbott government move to cut foreign aid to organisations involved in family planning.


Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told an aid conference in Canberra on Thursday there was no better tool for development than the education of girls and women.

“No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition, promote health and increase the chances of education for the next generation,” Ms Plibersek told the Australian Council for International Development conference.

But she said former Howard government legislation, which banned Australian aid money going to organisations which delivered family planning services, had been a backward step.

She fears new Prime Minister Tony Abbott could revisit the issue given that Labor had scrapped the laws.

“Let me say this very clearly. I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries,” Ms Plibersek said.

“It is good for mothers and their babies for women to have the ability to have their first child later, and for mothers to have the ability to space their family.

“It is vital for mothers and babies to increase attended births and offer proper post-natal care.”

The Abbott government has merged AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Plibersek, Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the government now faced the prospect of losing dedicated staff with specialist skills and contacts in developing countries.

“This merger has been sudden, traumatic, and leaves unanswered questions,” she said.

Ms Plibersek said Labor believed the fundamental goal of Australia’s aid policy should be to overcome poverty and to save and improve lives.

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