Speech to Parliament: Fighting for DFAT workers' jobs

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I agree with the points made by the member for Brisbane. That is why Labor in government committed to spending more on combating domestic violence and women's programs, particularly in the Pacific, through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development.

The whole problem with the cuts to overseas development aid that have been undertaken by this budget is that we do not know which programs are going to be cut. At this point in time the government will not release the details of where the cuts will come from.

Importantly, the Australians who are delivering these programs throughout the world, particularly through the diplomatic footprint that Australia has, are facing job losses. Some $400 million will be cut from DFAT's budget over the course of this budget and 500 jobs will go from DFAT. One in eight staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will lose their position. How is that consistent with improving the role in diplomacy that Australia plays, particularly in the Pacific, relating to women's programs?

This is one of the most important roles that the government has in foreign affairs. The role of the departmental officers in DFAT, protecting Australians overseas, can never be underestimated. We are seeing at the moment the great work that departmental officers are doing with respect to the conflict that is going on in Iraq and the great work that Australian officers are doing in protecting the interests of Australians who are facing difficult circumstances in Iraq.

Where was the minister? Did the minister object to this funding being removed from her portfolio and the 500 jobs being cut from DFAT? The minister said earlier in an interview with the AAP that she saw her role as changing the erosion that had occurred and vowing to fight for more funding for Australia's cash strapped foreign services. She said she would be drawing up plans to expand the nation's diplomatic footprint. The minister said in December last year:

It's time for DFAT to reassert its position as the primary source of advice on foreign policy.

How can that occur when 500 jobs are being cut from the department? These are hollow words from a minister who has not fought for her department and has not stood up for the rights of her troops. All of this is in the context of the government spending $113,130 on three websites for three ministers. All that money was spent on three websites for three ministers. This was disclosed in estimates.

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