China moves to allay fears its new development bank will compete with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank

Updated February 14, 2015 12:51:02

One of the more controversial developments in the aid sector in recent times has been China's move to set up a multilateral development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

It had divided the global community, with the United States in particular pressuring governments, including Australia, not to sign up.

There were concerns a China-dominated multilateral lender could fail to meet international environmental, social and governance standards.

Despite being the world's second largest economy, China has limited voting power over multilateral lenders that count the US and its allies as their biggest financial backers.

But China moved to reassure the global community its plans to set up the AIIB are not designed to compete with existing multilateral financial institutions.

A senior adviser to the Chinese government on the AIIB told the Australasian Aid Conference in Canberra the aim was to complement the likes of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Zhou Qiangwu said the institutions which dominate the international development arena had limitations and their expenditure did not begin to meet the meeds of Asia, especially in terms of infrastructure growth.

You know the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and some others focus on poverty reduction as their major objectives, while this new bank will be only focused on infrastructure.

Zhou Qiangwu, senior adviser to the Chinese government

"This new bank will be a multilateral development bank of specialisation, openness, high standards and (will) also try to be innovative," Mr Zhou said.

"You know the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and some others focus on poverty reduction as their major objectives, while this new bank will be only focused on infrastructure."

The AIIB was launched in Beijing last October at a ceremony attended by Chinese finance minister Lou Jiwei and delegates from 21 countries including India, Thailand and Malaysia.

China would be its largest shareholder with a stake of up to 50 per cent in the $US50 billion project.

The aim was to give project loans to developing nations.

Zhou Qiangwu said the AIIB would in the future expand its business to include so-called social infrastructure like education and health, but its first focus would be hard infrastructure.

"We would put regional and cross-border objectives as the priority, particularly in the coming five to 10 years," he said.

Mr Zhou said the AIIB would pay close attention to environmental assessments and labour standards, some of the issues of concern raised by the United States, European countries and others.

He also told the Australasian Aid conference steps would be taken to prevent corruption of projects financed by the bank.

Last year, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated Australia would consider joining the AIIB if it had the same governance arrangements and transparency as the World Bank

The AIIB, with headquarters in Beijing, is due to open this year.

It will be joined in 2015 by another new international institution, the BRICS Bank, which was announced last year by participating countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which will be based in Shanghai.

Topics:banking, regional-development, international-aid-and-trade, canberra-2600, china

First posted February 14, 2015 12:47:50

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Updated February 14, 2015 14:43:57

The Prime Minister has replaced Philip Ruddock as chief government whip to allow a "deeper engagement" with his backbench but the move has rekindled discontent in Coalition ranks.

Tony Abbott made the shock announcement yesterday that he was dumping the veteran MP from the key position in the aftermath of this week's failed attempt to spill the leadership.

Mr Abbott was today asked by reporters in Sydney if the move was an act of retribution.

"No, not at all," he replied.

"Philip Ruddock is a friend, Philip Ruddock is a colleague and Philip Ruddock was a supporter.

"But what I am determined to do is have a deeper and stronger engagement with the backbench and that means it was very important to renew and refresh the whips team," he said. 

Some of Mr Abbott's supporters believe Mr Ruddock did not do enough to publicly rally support for the Prime Minister and should have done a better job of picking up on backbench disquiet in the weeks leading up to the failed attempt to spill the leadership.

But some MPs who wanted a spill are bewildered and confused by Mr Ruddock's sacking - one saying "the night of the long knives has begun".

Others described it as "another captain's call" that had gone down badly within the party.

Queensland backbencher Andrew Laming has gone public with his criticism, describing it as "scapegoating of Godzilla proportions".

"We really needed a week of healing, not wounding, and I think it really has set us back a fair bit particularly because Philip Ruddock was such a respected character," Mr Laming told the ABC.

Mr Laming said he spoke to Mr Abbott yesterday and told him what he thought.

"Regardless of the reasons, regardless of what you write in a press release, the perception when acting in this way in this week will be that it was one of recrimination," Mr Laming said. 

But Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr Laming had "ulterior motives" given he supported the spill motion.

Mr Frydenberg rejected suggestions the Prime Minister's decision was retribution and said he spoke to Mr Ruddock this morning.

"He understands that this is a decision for the leader to take," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.

"I think this is a decision that is just within the normal course of what happens within government."

Mr Ruddock is not commenting about the decision, except to say the position of chief whip is the gift of the Prime Minister.

Mr Ruddock, who is known as the "Father of the House" for being the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will be replaced by Queensland MP Scott Buchholz.

Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic, a prominent supporter of the Prime Minister, will also be promoted to a whip position.

He said he did not see it as a reward for publicly urging his colleagues against a spill.

"The reason I did that was not for any reward, but to say to my colleagues that the last thing we should be doing is demonstrating the sort of disunity that the Australian people comprehensively rejected," Mr Nikolic said.

I am determined to ... have a deeper and stronger engagement with the backbench, and that means it was very important to renew and refresh the whip's team.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Mr Frydenberg has welcomed the appointments.

"In Scott Buchholz we have a very good man who will be our new whip, and Andrew Nikolic as a deputy who's also very experienced in rounding up the troops if you like," Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Abbott earlier paid tribute to Mr Ruddock in a statement confirming the changes Friday afternoon.

"I acknowledge and thank the Hon Philip Ruddock MP for his extraordinary contribution to our country, this Government and the Liberal Party," Mr Abbott wrote.

"As Father of the House, Philip has given over four decades of service to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people.

"He was a senior minister throughout the life of the Howard government and was shadow cabinet secretary in opposition.

"Later this year he will become the second longest-serving parliamentarian in our history."

The move had been under discussion for more than a day.

The two men met after Parliament rose on Thursday.

Topics:liberals, liberal-national-party-queensland, political-parties, government-and-politics, federal-government, federal-parliament, abbott-tony, australia

First posted February 14, 2015 10:56:08

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Updated February 14, 2015 13:37:54

A gay rights group has called for the Northern Territory Treasurer to apologise for alleged homophobic remarks he made last year or be removed from Cabinet.

Dave Tollner was dumped from the ministry amid allegations he made a gay slur about a ministerial staffer and son of one of his colleagues.

He denied the accusations this week after being sworn in as a Cabinet minister following a reshuffle.

At a press conference after the ceremony he accused a newspaper reporter of making up the allegations, saying: "There was no calling a staffer a pillow biter or a shirt-lifter.

"There was no argument. There was no homophobic rant."

Gay rights group Territory Rainbow spokeswoman Jane Black said Mr Tollner should apologise publicly for his alleged comments or be dumped by Mr Giles.

"Reappointing David Tollner as Treasurer without Mr Toller having made any steps to make amends is just not appropriate," she said.

Who is Dave Tollner?

Born David William Tollner in Central Queensland, 1966, the eldest of four children. Arrives in Darwin in 1988.

Unsuccessfully stands as an independent in 1997 NT election.

Wins as the Country Liberals (CLP) candidate in seat of Solomon in 2001 federal election. Loses seat in 2007.

Wins seat of Fong Lim in 2008 NT election. Holds seat in 2012, when CLP wins government from Labor.

Resigns as treasurer and deputy leader in August 2014 after his comments to a gay staffer go public. Later denies making the comments.

In October 2014 admits making a political donation to the CLP would open his door "if you ever need to talk to me about something".

In 2014 is accused of mimicking Aboriginal politician Alison Anderson in the NT Parliament.

Criticised for advocating the killing of cane toads with golf clubs.

Is forced to offload his pet dog Brussel Sprout after a neighbour suffers leg injuries in alleged attack.

Quoted as saying: "The CLP is family-focused. Labor is focused on women who have six kids by six different fathers."

CLP lists him as "a staunch advocate for the Territory, and is widely credited for his role in attracting significant Commonwealth funding deals to the NT".

"We don't consider it appropriate to have people with the views that Mr Tollner has in leadership positions in the NT Government.

"It's just not good enough.

"We think it would be appropriate if David Tollner publicly apologised to the community and for Adam Giles to make it clear he supports the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community."

Chief Minister Adam Giles brought Mr Tollner back into Cabinet following a failed leadership challenge earlier this month.

Mr Tollner holds the portfolios of Treasurer, Minister for Lands and Planning and Minister for Mines and Energy.

Ms Black said there was a "fair amount of discrimination" against the LGBTIQ community in the NT and Mr Tollner's reappointment sent the wrong message.

"This has an impact not only on the person involved, but also on the wider LGBTIQ community in Darwin and in the NT."

She said there would be no movement on wider issues concerning the LGBTIQ community, such as equal marriage and adoption laws, while Mr Tollner was in Cabinet.

"I think there's always opportunities for people to learn and change but there's just no evidence of that yet, so until that happens we just can't support Mr Tollner having such a position in Cabinet."

Topics:gays-and-lesbians, government-and-politics, darwin-0800

First posted February 14, 2015 13:35:39

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