People all over the world stand to be impacted by the federal budget announcement next week. And just as the world watched the US election in 2012 knowing that the results would affect more than just US citizens, so too do Australia’s political actions have a ripple-on effect that reaches far beyond our own shores.
Right now, Australia gives just 0.35 percent of our national income to overseas aid. Many of us think we give a lot, but this figure ranks us 13th out of 24 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations, and far behind the many other developed countries.
Along with other wealthy countries in the OECD, Australia has committed to increasing our aid funding to 0.5 percent by 2016-2017. Next week’s federal budget is the real test of whether the government will keep its word in reaching for that target.
Last year, the Gillard government delivered a double blow to the overseas aid program by delaying increases and diverting $375 million from overseas programs to fund domestic asylum seeker costs.
Any further cuts, delays or ‘creative accounting’ could devastate some of the world’s poorest people – some of whom are our closest neighbours in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands. 1 in 8 people in the world go to bed hungry every night, and that is a problem the whole world needs to face.
Australian aid saves lives and gives vulnerable communities the tools they need to improve the quality of their lives. Aid is not charity. It’s an investment in the future of Australia, our region, and the world. Aid works, too; the number of people living in poverty is decreasing, not increasing, so Oxfam’s vision of a future free from poverty is real, not fantasy.
As the federal election approaches, the world is watching us. Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a leader on the international stage, and it’s our responsibility to step up and take a leading role in the fight against global poverty.