McMullan Defends Australian Aid Reforms Following Scathing Review

    Australian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Bob McMullan. Photo by: AusAID

    Bob McMullan said he welcomes the review of Australia’s aid program in Papua New Guinea, which criticized the heavy reliance of AusAID on technical assistance for its projects in the Pacific country.

    In an interview with Virginia Trioli of ABC2’s “Breakfast” May 25, the Australian parliamentary secretary for international development assistance found the review to be a “very good” assessment but stressed that he did not agree with all the findings.

    “But I think it substantially does say that changes that we have under way - the reduction in the emphasis on technical assistance, the review of that, the partnership for development that we entered into, I think, shows we’re going in the right direction,” McMullan told Trioli.

    As reported by Devex, criticisms against AusAID’s program centered on the exorbitant fees awarded to consultants, with some of them earning more than the Australian prime minister. McMullan said the issue is “a bit emotional” at present.

    “A lot of people whipping up a bit of hysteria,” he said. “But we are having a long, hard look at it.” 

    McMullan underscored the current government’s action to cut spending for technical assistance, asserting that more money was used up for the purpose five years ago. He reiterated the Rudd administration’s commitment to review such aid, and the plan is to reduce this further.

    But the aid official emphasized that not all money going to technical assistance went to waste, with many consultants doing “very good work.”

    McMullan revealed that the Rudd administration also intends to increase the percentage of funding going through non-governmental organizations, but “it won’t ever be 100 percent because they can’t do everything.”

    McMullan also responded to criticisms that a move to give USD400 million to Africa by 2015 was a way for Australia to gain more votes for its bid to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

    “That’s just crass,” he told the TV program. “We’ve just had terrific news today from The Lancet that says finally efforts in Africa are reducing infant mortality. We’ve had figures for years saying women and children are dying needlessly, and I don’t think Australians think that their Australian Government should say ‘Oh, those women and children are dying needlessly, let’s not do anything about it.’”

    Australia, he said, “should be part of the solution,” adding that the amount only represents 5 percent of the country’s aid budget.

    About the author

    • Eliza Villarino

      Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.