Morrison government flags foreign policy refresh
Tuesday, 19th November 2019 at 4:55 pm
The minister for international development says the government is re-examining the current policy set by Julie Bishop in 2013
Australia is set for a new foreign aid program, with the federal government indicating a policy refresh is on the horizon.
Alex Hawke, the minister for international development and the Pacific, told the Good Will Hunters podcast that the government knew a lot has changed in the six years since former foreign minister Julie Bishop set Australia’s last aid plan.
“We have already started the conversation about our aid program and the objectives that it has, the strategy behind it, the plans beneath it and the need to refresh and also look at how often we will be refreshing and updating those plans,” Hawke said.
“Is it enough these days to set it even on a five or 10 year horizon? Most people would start to think, ‘look you know, the way the world’s moving we need to think about these things more regularly’.”
But while Hawke said the government was currently considering a new aid plan, he did not offer any details – adding there would likely be announcements coming in the near future.
These comments have been welcomed by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), which called pre-election for the incoming government to undertake an independent review of Australia’s aid program.
ACFID wants a review consultation that includes the views of the Australian public and the aid sector, while also engaging with the nation’s regional and international country-partners.
CEO Marc Purcell said a new policy must be shaped according to the changing international environment so it can best address poverty, injustice and inequality.
He said the case for relevant Australian development assistance was compelling.
“Pacific Island nations are facing an existential crisis created by climate change; in Bangladesh more than one million Rohingya people have fled persecution from Myanmar; and in South-East Asia over 300 million people live in extreme poverty, and inequality is rising,” Purcell said.
“Australia’s response is to rise to these challenges, and the best of Australian expertise and experience needs to be harnessed to work in partnership to help our neighbours.”
Australia will spend around $4 billion on foreign aid this financial year, but there is no indication this amount will increase.
The aid budget is currently the least generous it has ever been, equal to 0.21 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2019/20, and dropping to 0.19 per cent in 2021-22.
Greens foreign aid spokesperson, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, said Australia must raise its aid contribution to at least meet its United Nations obligation of 0.7 per cent of GNI.
“We know the Liberals’ political repurposing of aid for Australia’s self-interest and budget cuts have decimated our foreign aid program. The goal of aid should be to make the world a more equal and just place for all,” Faruqi said.