Aid Organisations Condemn Rumoured Budgets Cuts
8 May 2017 at 2:29 pm
Australian aid organisations have condemned reports on the eve of the budget that foreign aid funding is set to be cut in a bid to boost funding to intelligence agencies.
According to The Australian, the government is expected to ramp up Australia’s intelligence agencies with additional funding for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and Australia’s Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
It comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday that Australia’s federal police would also be given a “historic” $321 million four-year funding package to bolster the nation’s defences.
The funding, included in Tuesday’s budget, will be the biggest Commonwealth funding injection to the AFP in a decade, however it has not been confirmed where the money is coming from with reports indicating some will be diverted from foreign aid funds.
Campaign for Australian Aid, which represents more than 65 aid and development organisations, church, business and community groups, said it condemned “raiding already depleted aid budget”.
Campaign for Australian Aid director Tony Milne said the aid budget had already been “cut to the bone”.
“While the government gives massive handouts to the wealthiest people and big corporates, it continues cutting aid to those living in the poorest parts of the world,” Milne said.
“If the government wants to fund counter-terrorism, that’s their choice. But don’t cut funding to the world’s poorest from an aid budget that has already been cut to the bone by this government.
“As we speak, millions of people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are facing starvation, while millions more are seeking asylum from war in Syria. Yet the government continues to raid Australia’s aid budget, which currently sits at an historic low.”
Milne said the cuts would increase inequality and take funding away from reducing poverty and action on climate change which were “the very drivers of conflict and instability”.
Save the Children’s director of policy and public affairs, Mat Tinkler, said the reports were “alarming”.
“Successive governments have already slashed more than $11 billion from our foreign aid budget, which has impacted the most vulnerable people in the world, including children and their families who live in countries where the so-called ‘war on terror’ is being carried out, such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan,” Tinkler said.
“Protecting our aid budget is key to ensuring stability in our region and the world, and contributes to our security.
“Funding boosts to other areas should not come at the expense of those who are most in need.”
Labor has also raised concerns over the reports.
In a joint statement, Senator Penny Wong and Senator Claire Moore called on Julie Bishop to reject further aid cuts.
“Labor is deeply concerned at reports of further cuts to international development assistance in tomorrow’s budget,” they said.
“At the same time as it committed to a $50 billion tax cut to big business, the 2016-17 budget delivered the weakest levels of Australian development assistance in history, spending just 23 cents in every $100 of our national income on foreign aid.
“OECD data confirms Australia recording one of the largest decreases in international development assistance in the developed world in 2016, falling by 12.7 per cent in real terms.”
They said the cuts to development assistance were already “a source of international embarrassment for Australia”, and were “at odds with the generous spirit of the Australian people”.
“Instead of continuing to prioritise massive tax cuts for big business, Julie Bishop must rule out further cuts to Australia’s already embarrassingly low level of international development assistance in tomorrow’s budget,” they said.