Budget 2016: Foreign Aid Cuts a 'Damning Indictment' on Government
4 May 2016 at 10:05 am
Treasurer Scott Morrison’s proposed further cuts to the foreign aid budget have been roundly criticised by Not for Profits across the board, claiming it will put lives at risk.
The budget slashed $224 million from the foreign aid budget after a $1 billion cut the previous year, bringing the total aid budget to $3.887 billion in 2016/17.
Australia will provide 0.23 per cent of official development assistance as a share of Gross National Income (GNI), the lowest it has ever been.
Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) CEO Marc Purcell said the coalition government’s fourth successive cut to Australia’s aid program since coming to power had caused widespread damage to life-saving programs.
“It has damaged our relationship with neighbouring countries because we didn’t do what we said we would do in terms of assisting them,” Purcell told Pro Bono Australia News.
“We have increased risk to Australians by cutting particular programs in the region of public health and biosecurity, which help protect our agricultural livestock industries and public health.
“At this point the government has committed a billion dollars over five years to climate change. Unfortunately that allocation was simply money that had been rebadged and was re-announced by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in Paris last year. We would like to see new investment and new additional funds.”
World Vision CEO Tim Costello said the latest round of cuts put lives and futures at risk, including regional and global security and prosperity.
“The madness of endless aid cuts was launched by [former prime minister] Tony Abbott two days before the last federal election, now Mr Turnbull and Mr [Bill] Shorten have the opportunity to come together to change that,” Costello said.
“All parties have 60 days to commit to restoring the aid budget to the previous level of a $5.5 billion (only 0.3 per cent GNI). We call on all parties to commit to making this happen over the life of the next parliament.”
The CEO of youth aid NFP Oaktree, Chris Wallace, said the reduction in foreign aid had caused immunisations programs to be shut down, education initiatives to be discontinued and hospital closures.
He said the budget was a “history making moment for all the wrong reasons” and urged politicians to show leadership.
Marc Purcell said the government should rebuild the Australian aid program after the prime minister said he wanted Australia to deepen engagement with the world. He said the organisation hoped the election campaign would spur the coalition and Labor party to do better work in planning to rebuild Australia’s aid program.
“As it stands, if the Turnbull government is re-elected, Australia’s aid program will be at its lowest level ever for the full term of the next parliament,” he said.
“I think particularly in places like Africa where we have cut our program by 70 per cent, there would be a scepticism about the goodwill of Australia as a neighbour and being a reliable aid donor.
“I think the Australian aid program is more than just helping the poorest in our neighbourhood and the region. There is something about the vision and values of a government and if the Turnbull government is re-elected, Australia’s aid will be at its lowest level ever, and yet we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I think that is a damning indictment of the values and vision of the government.”