Foreign Aid Sector Stretched Thin Over PM Promise
8 November 2018 at 8:53 am
Members of Australia’s foreign aid sector have welcomed a promise by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to funnel money into Pacific regions, but say the foreign aid budget needs to be increased significantly.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph this week, Morrison ruled out increasing the overall foreign aid budget.
The prime minister also said he wanted to shift Australia’s foreign aid spending toward Pacific Island nations, to win them over, and combat the billions poured into the nations by China.
Mat Tinkler, Save the Children’s (STC) director of policy and international programs, told Pro Bono News STC welcomed the commitment to prioritise the Pacific in terms of foreign aid.
“Many Pacific nations are still facing enormous need, for example, almost half of all children in Papua New Guinea have stunted growth from chronic malnutrition,” Tinkler said.
Oxfam CEO Helen Szoke said she was also pleased by the promise of supporting neighbouring countries, but expressed that it shouldn’t come at a cost to other vulnerable people around the world.
“This is the time for rebuilding the aid program, not simply moving what little funding we already give from one region to another,” Szoke said.
Both Szoke and Tinkler said it was highly concerning Morrison was refusing to lift the foreign aid budget, something many in the sector have called for repeatedly.
“Our decimated aid budget can only stretch so far,” Tinkler said.
“Australia is a wealthy, generous country and successive cuts to an already depleted aid budget, which is now just 0.22 per cent of budget spend, do not represent our values,” Szoke added.
Morrison also said he wanted to shift money away from UN-linked bodies, and Palestinian territories.
Szoke said these promises were particularly problematic as it was inconsistent with the government’s commitment to promoting and working within a rules-based international order.
“Strong global bodies enable countries to work together to address global challenges, including major health crises, large-scale human rights violations and climate change,” Szoke said.
“Australian aid-funded programs in the West Bank and Gaza have been highly successful and it would be a tragedy to unravel all that progress.”
STC also referred to Morrison’s maiden speech to Parliament in 2008, where he commended the then government for increasing the foreign aid budget, and said Australia needed to make poverty “it’s own personal business”.
“The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do,” Morrison said in his speech.
Tinker said this speech demonstrated the prime minister understood the importance of foreign aid and doing more.
“The prime minister has the opportunity to increase the budget in the Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook in December,” he said.