“Sing a song of free trade to tackle poverty,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer writes in an op-ed piece in The Australian today:

Tackling poverty in Africa just by cancelling debt is a bit like staging a rock concert with only a drum kit. Debt relief is a useful instrument in the fight against poverty but it is just one component and will not be effective on its own… If money were the sole solution, the estimated $900 billion provided to Africa in the past 50 years (about $35 billion annually in recent years) would have ensured success and eliminated poverty…

So what song does Downer sing? (And does he wear a Tina Turner wig to go with the fishnets and high heels?) Well, Downer was making sweet music on this very subject with Fran Kelly on Radio National on Tuesday. The interview hit these notes when they discussed debt relief:

KELLY: Just in terms of the level of aid though does the Australia government remain committed to the aim of getting to 0.7% of GNI by 2015 – the Millennium Development Goals?

DOWNER: Well, certainly, the Australian Government under all political parties has agreed to that as an aspiration. And…

KELLY: As an aspiration or a target?

DOWNER: Well it is an aspirational target…

An “aspirational target.” Who would have thought it. Posh Alexander Downer, such a fan of Oasis and those rude, rough and ready Gallagher brothers. He still keeps playing Definitely Maybe.

Peter Fray

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