Parties Fudge Timetable for Rise in Foreign Aid
22 June 2016 at 1:59 pm
The peak body for Australia’s foreign aid agencies says it is disappointed that the major political parties won’t commit to a definite timetable to reach their aid funding policy targets.
Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) CEO Marc Purcell said that in response to ACFID’s 10 questions on aid policy, four political parties agreed they supported an effective and expanded Australian aid program.
“The Liberal, Labor, Australian Greens and Family First parties all agreed aid funding must rise, but they differ markedly on how they would approach this,” Purcell said.
“The two major parties’ policy for the past decade has been to provide 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) to the aid program as part of their effort to reach the UN goal for of 0.7 per cent GNI.”
However Purcell said the parties have not committed to a timetable that can add certainty for those working in the regions.
This argument was confirmed during a National Press Club debate on Tuesday between the deputy leaders, foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop and shadow foreign affairs minister Tanya Plibersek.
When asked if the 0.5 per cent of GDP was still a goal Julie Bishop said “it is an aspiration” and Tanya Plibersek said “it is our long-term goal”.
When pushed on a definite timetable, Plibersek said “no time soon, I’m afraid”.
“The cuts are so deep, the damage is so great, that it will take us a substantial amount of time to repay… to repair this damage. What we’ve said is we’d add $800 million additional to what the government is spending over the next four years. $450 million of that would to go the UNHCR,” Plibersek said.
“We also want to work more with non-government organisations. They do a terrific job, they give great value for money so we said an extra $40 million a year for those.
“We’ve also said that the cut that will happen on 1 July if the Turnbull government is re-elected would not proceed under Labor, so that’s about $224 million that we would not cut next year if we are elected on 2 July.”
Julie Bishop said the 0.5 per cent target was merely a formula.
“It does not, of itself, mean better outcomes in health or education or security, or governance. It is a guide, an aspiration. Some countries say 0.7 per cent, others say 0.4 per cent. It is just a guide, a formula,” Bishop said.
“Given the financial circumstances we inherited after six disastrous years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government our approach [is] targeting our aid and ensuring that it is more effective, more efficient and more in line with driving economic growth in the recipient countries… you don’t lift people out of poverty, millions of people out of poverty, by more foreign aid. You do it by giving those countries the ability to be self-reliant, resilient and driving economic growth so that they can have jobs in their communities, so that they can export their goods and services.”
Purcell said: “As only two parties who can form government in their own right, ACFID calls on the Liberal and Labor parties to commit to a timetable for aid funding increases.”
The DFAT 2016/17 budget papers can be found here.