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Record Cut to Australia’s Foreign Aid

13 May 2015 at 10:59 am
Xavier Smerdon
The Abbott Government has delivered the biggest single-year cut to foreign aid in Australia’s history, a move that Not for Profits claim will hurt our international reputation.

Xavier Smerdon | 13 May 2015 at 10:59 am


Record Cut to Australia’s Foreign Aid
13 May 2015 at 10:59 am

The Abbott Government has delivered the biggest single-year cut to foreign aid in Australia’s history, a move that Not for Profits claim will hurt our international reputation.

In delivering last night’s Budget, Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed that $1 billion, or 20 per cent of Australia’s current foreign aid budget, would be cut, bringing the total cuts to the aid program since the Government was elected to $11.3 billion.

World Vision CEO Tim Costello said the Government had put both lives and stability in Australia’s immediate region at risk with its decision to go ahead with the record cut.

“It seems incredible that we should be willing to undermine the stability and security of our own region, hitting the area of closest and most immediate need and undermining our chances for future prosperity,” Costello said.

The peak body for Australia’s aid agencies, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), said the Government was neglecting its international responsibilities.

“Millions of women, children, and men in poor communities in our region who benefited from our highly effective aid program will no longer get a helping hand from Australia,” ACFID Executive Director, Marc Purcell said.

“These Budget cuts will damage Australia’s relations with our neighbouring countries. We have hamstrung our ability to tackle global and regional issues that affect us all: poverty, conflict, terrorism, climate change, migration, disease and poor governance.

“The budget figures show that by 2016-17, our aid budget as a share of national income will fall to just 0.22 per cent, or 22 cents in every $100.

“We have a shrunken aid program – and will become an insular and less fair Australia as a result.

“These massive budget cuts shrink Australia’s place in the world, reducing our ranking from 13 to 16 out of 28 countries in the OECD aid generosity index by 2018 below New Zealand, Ireland and Belgium.”

According to Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development, Tanya Plibersek, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar have seen their aid cut by 40 per cent.

Plibersek said aid to Sub-Saharan African countries had been cut by a “horrific” 70 per cent  and the Middle East and North Africa region and seen aid to it cut by 82 per cent.

“This is hugely embarrassing for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who promised before the election to grow the aid budget, but now presides over the weakest foreign aid program in Australian history,” Plibersek said.

“Many countries have suffered cuts, with numerous critical programs facing the axe – including child protection, domestic violence, HIV prevention, health, education, and clean water projects.

“The Abbott Government’s aid cuts are hurting the most vulnerable, and hurting Australia’s international reputation as a good global citizen.”

Plibersek said the cuts were also putting Australia’s national security at risk

“Leading think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), says that reducing deprivation and inequality in our region delivers significant strategic benefits to Australia,” she said.

“ASPI warns that the Abbott Government’s cuts to foreign aid could lead to civil unrest in nearby states.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended her aid budget, saying Australia still had a good international standing.

“Australia will provide an estimated $4 billion in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2015-16, making us approximately the 13th largest donor in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in dollar terms,” Bishop said.

“The aid program will reflect the different development and economic trajectories across the region and will continue the Government’s commitment to development in the Pacific and building economic partnerships across Asia.

ChildFund Australia CEO, Nigel Spence, said only Cambodia, which has agreed to resettle refugees who travelled to Australia by boat, had been spared significant aid cuts.

“We are deeply disappointed that this devastating cut to Australia’s aid program has gone ahead. This means vital aid projects for the world’s most vulnerable children and families will be drastically scaled back, resulting in less children accessing the basics they need to survive and thrive – clean water, healthcare, education, protection,” Spence said.

“We reject the idea that cuts to aid are necessary to repair the budget or fund domestic programs. Aid spending amounts to just 1 per cent of the Federal Budget. E?ven wiping out the entire aid program would have little impact on the Budget’s bottom line.”

Tim Costello said welcomed the Julie Bishop’s announcement of a $50 million competitive Gender Equality Fund for the Indo-Pacific region, but he said this would not make up for the “devastating impact on women and girls of the massive across-the-board cuts in our aid to Asia”.

“It is hard to think about gender equality and economic empowerment when you are dying in childbirth in a remote village without access to adequate health care or your child is perishing in your arms because of an untreated case of diarrhoea,” Costello said.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) labelled the Budget as “mean-spirited” and “short-sighted” for its failure to respond to the world’s growing humanitarian crises.

“The massive cut in the overseas aid budget and the Government’s failure to begin reversing its 2013 cut to the Refugee and Humanitarian Program will be viewed internationally as signs that Australia is indifferent to the massive displacement of refugees in the Middle East or the large-scale humanitarian crises in Asia and Africa,” RCOA CEO Paul Power said.

“If the Abbott Government was interested in doing its fair share, and cared about the growing international challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees, it would be increasing the number of people we resettled and providing more aid where the needs are greatest, to challenge displacement at the source.

“This Budget is mean-spirited to the world’s refugees, it continues to demonise asylum seekers who are Australia’s responsibility, it will inflame tensions with the region and continues to undermine our global reputation as a generous global citizen.”

Budget Papers on Foreign Aid can be found HERE

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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