Back at the end of last year, I was writing, as were many others, about the horrendous tsunami and the responses to it. In my posting of December 30th, I wrote “There is no doubt that the $35 million pledged by the Australian Government so far is inadequate, but I also have no doubt that a lot more will be pledged down the track.” This is one occasion when I am pleased to be proved right, although I must say I don’t think I expected the eventual total to be as big as it was.
I mention this, because the Bills appropriating the money for the tsunami assistance passed through the Senate today. They were not controversial of course, and therefore got little media coverage, (although both a Green Party Senator and I said it would be better if half of the $1 billion package was not in the form of a loan). However, it was good to see the cross-party support for the Government’s efforts.
I will probably take the links to the tsunami help sites off this site soon. The time has shifted to the Government and aid agencies making maximum use of the assistance, so I don’t think I need to highlight the donations sites much longer (although the SEA-EAT blog is still interesting to drop into now and then).
As I mentioned in the Senate a few times in different speeches over the last week or so, I hope the Government’s sizeable aid package, and the significant private and corporate donations, serve as a catalyst to a longer-term increase in development assistance and aid – especially in our region. Showing people that the funds for the tsunami victims are well spent will be crucial to the chances of this happening.
The final death and casualty figures for this catastrophe will never be certain, and are so large as to be difficult to comprehend anyway. However, figures were given to an Estimates Committee last month showing a death toll that is probably over 300 000, and the number of displaced at over two and a half million people. (Some more details about this can be found by looking at the Hansard here – from page 41 onwards.)