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Thousands Call on Govt to Look Beyond Our Borders

28 February 2017 at 5:12 pm
Wendy Williams
Australia’s aid and development organisations have sent an “undeniable message” to the foreign minister calling on the government to confront challenges beyond our borders.

Wendy Williams | 28 February 2017 at 5:12 pm


Thousands Call on Govt to Look Beyond Our Borders
28 February 2017 at 5:12 pm

Australia’s aid and development organisations have sent an “undeniable message” to the foreign minister calling on the government to confront challenges beyond our borders.

Campaign for Australian Aid, a coalition of more than 50 of Australia’s aid and development organisations, churches, community groups and businesses, has delivered more than 8,700 submissions to the federal government’s foreign policy white paper from members of the public.

According to Campaign for Australian Aid, while the submissions, delivered on Tuesday, were all unique, a “very clear message emerged” around the importance for Australia to look beyond its own interests and become a global leader in order to support those in need.

Campaign for Australian Aid director Tony Milne told Pro Bono News it was a sign of the current times.

“We’ve seen a powerful message shine through in what according to every indication, is the largest collective response to foreign policy from any sector,” Milne said.

“It’s important to approach our country’s and the world’s problems with an attitude that we’re all in this together.

“Alongside interdependence and community, other important values that should guide Australia’s foreign policy include the equal worth of all people, unity with nature, a fair go for all, democracy, compassion, empathy and generosity.

“I think it is partly to do with the times that we are living in.

“There is so much happening globally in terms of a disruption to our politics, and people are connecting the dots between issues like climate change, that requires domestic action but also has global consequences, and global inequality and so many issues, I think that has really touched a nerve with people and meant that they really wanted to participate in this process.”

The submissions were gathered via the Up To Us website and public workshops held in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, following a campaign calling on Australians to have their say.

It comes after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the foreign policy white paper late last year – the government’s first since 2003 – which will provide a framework for Australia’s international relations.

The strategic document, likely to be released in the second half of 2017, was open to public submissions until 5pm on Tuesday.

Milne said they received more submissions than they expected.

“We had 8,716, but we have still got people filling out the submissions, we’ll make sure that we get those handed over as well. So we’re up to 8,806,” he said.

“It’s a lot more than we were hoping for, we had a target of around 5,000 but I think people really wanted to engage in this process.

“It’s been a really exciting opportunity to talk to people about what their vision is for our foreign policy.

“I think we really wanted to build a bottom up sense of what our supporters and the public were thinking and the things that really came through strongly was that people want to not just be focused on national interests but view the national interests as what’s in the global interest.”

According to the submission the top priorities include:

  • Australia must be a global leader, not a follower
  • Australia must have an emergency-level focus on climate change
  • reducing inequality and poverty is vital for future peace, human security and prosperity
  • Australian aid and international development must be a key foreign policy tool to deliver a fairer, more sustainable and peaceful world.

Milne said Australia’s interests were best served by a focus not just on today, but also on future generations.

“It might be because we had a lot of young people submitting but people were saying that they didn’t want our definition of national interest to be a now definition that is only about today but also thinking about the longer term and the impact and the interests of future generations as well,” he said.

“We must be a global leader helping to solve the world’s toughest challenges and advancing a fairer, more sustainable and peaceful world.

“Australian aid and international development must be a key pillar of foreign policy to help achieve this vision.

“The major threats and opportunities facing not just Australia, but the world, requires an Australian foreign policy with an emergency-level focus on climate change and the interrelated challenges of reducing inequality and poverty.”

Milne said he hoped the government would take the submissions into consideration.

“The government has said that they wanted it to be a public process and that they would listen to the public’s views,” he said.

“We would hope that the government would take into consideration, the really strong views and the strong voice that has come through the submissions that we’ve encouraged people to participate in the process, and that the final white paper will reflect some of those priorities.

Aid has been cut to the lowest level that it’s ever been, and I think that reflects poorly if you are wanting to be a global leader then you need to commit to the international agreements that you are signing up to, and not just kind of do the minimum but actually be up doing more, and I think that’s what we would like to see, not just on aid but on a number of issues.

“These challenges cannot be solved as single issues. Nor can any one nation solve its problems alone. The challenges facing us are global, and will require global cooperation on an entirely new scale.

“We have spoken and the responsibility is now with the government to truly reflect the public views made by thousands.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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