By Campaign for Australian Aid Lead, Jessica Wheelock
Budget night. What an exciting time! The number-crunching highs and the buzzword-slinging lows.
Okay, maybe the budget isn’t that exciting. But is it fair?
The Federal Budget is an opportunity to create the kind of Australia we can be proud of. So in a country that believes in a ‘fair go’, we would expect to see a few things – decisive action on climate change, a crackdown on multinational tax dodgers, and an aid budget that reflects our big-hearted nation. Right? Well, apparently not.
Oxfam’s verdict: the Budget was a disappointing fail.
If you haven’t had the chance to go through the budget papers with a fine-tooth comb, never fear – our policy team have done the hard work for you.
Here’s the Oxfam breakdown of how the budget stacks up against the fairness test on some of the biggest issues: justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, our Australian aid budget, action on climate change and our plans to tackle inequality.
We know that Australian aid is vital to achieving our vision of a peaceful and prosperous region. And yet the Government has decided to freeze our aid budget in a cold-hearted move.
After successive years of cuts and freezes, our life-saving aid program is the lowest it’s ever been. And over the next four years of the forward estimates, this freeze equates to a new cut to aid of $141 million, bringing total cuts to $444 million.
This year already saw Australia fall behind in meeting our international obligations, dropping from 17 to 19 of the 29 OECD aid-giving countries. This is despite the fact that we have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
Australian aid helps some of the world’s most promising people build a better and fairer future. This freeze to the aid budget is definitely not a fair go.
With inequality at an all-time high, surely the Government has made some moves to stop major multinationals from ripping off public funds in Australia and around the world, right?
Instead, the Government has made a choice to tear billions out of Australia’s public coffers by giving some of the country’s largest multinational businesses tax cuts, a move that does nothing to ease spiralling inequality.
On top of introducing mega corporate tax cuts, the Government has also failed to introduce comprehensive measures to tackle corporate tax-dodging by multinationals here and abroad. This does nothing to stop the process of big companies diverting profits from some of the poorest countries in the world — effectively robbing them of money that is needed for schools, hospitals and other essential services.
That’s a big fail of the fairness test.
Despite the profound threats faced by our Pacific neighbours from the impacts of climate change, and their determined efforts to drive solutions, the budget shows no increase in international funding for climate action. Worse still, this budget failed abysmally when it comes to cutting Australia’s carbon pollution, with no new measures to drive greater investment in renewable energy in Australia and move beyond fossil fuels.
“With no increase to Australia’s roughly $200 million annual contribution to international funding for climate action, once again we’re seeing very little recognition of the important role our nation must play in our region, especially in the Pacific, when it comes to addressing the growing risk of disasters and some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change.”
– Dr Helen Szoke AO, Chief Executive Oxfam Australia
All in all, we think the budget is a big fail when it comes to climate action.
Australia’s First Peoples
This Budget has been yet another squandered opportunity to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to drive the solutions to the challenges they face.
The lack of significant funding commitments in this Budget to address the worsening health and unacceptable disadvantage, poverty and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is deeply concerning.
The Government has made no commitment to fund the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023. This so-called plan to address the appalling deficit in Aboriginal health is merely a plan of words rather than deeds. While the Government found $550 million for rural health services, it has failed to address the identified service gaps that face Aboriginal people in remote Australia.
The plan to deduct welfare payments from fine defaulters will impact greatly on some of the most disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, especially in rural and remote areas. At the same time, the Budget has yet again failed to tackle appalling and increasing rates of Indigenous over-imprisonment.