The Gillard Government’s decision to delay promised increases to Australia’s aid budget next year will have a significant impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people, international aid agency Oxfam Australia said today.
Tonight’s Federal Budget reveals that the government has broken its promise to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015. Next year, aid spending will remain at 0.35 per cent of Australia’s national income, well below the 0.38 per cent forecast in last year’s budget papers.
This means the Government’s commitment to aid in the budget has been reduced by $2.9 billion over the next four years.
Oxfam Australia’s executive director Andrew Hewett said it was deeply disappointing to see the Treasurer had broken the Government’s promise to commit 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015.
“Australia’s aid program saves lives and it could save more lives, more quickly, without these cuts,” he said. “This delay in aid spending means fewer people will have access to clean water, sanitation, education and healthcare.”
Mr Hewett said with one in seven people around the world still going hungry every day, the world could not afford to wait for action.
“This delay undermines the improvements in the quality of the aid program, including efforts to improve aid effectiveness, food security and agricultural support to developing countries, and helping communities to be better prepared to respond to humanitarian disasters,” Mr Hewett said.
The Government has said they will increase aid to 0.5 per cent by 2016, delaying their promise by one year, however Mr Hewett said he had dwindling confidence that they would keep this latest promise.
Mr Hewett said by breaking the bipartisan commitment, the Government had turned an issue that should be above politics into a political football.
He urged the Abbott-led Opposition to hold firm in its promise to reach the 0.5 target by 2015.
“Australia’s aid program improves lives and should not be scaled back. This is a missed opportunity for Australia to invest in a more stable and prosperous region,” Mr Hewett said. “Australia is still one of the richest countries in the world. A budget surplus should never be built on the back of the world’s poor.”
Australia has signed on to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, global goals that aim to halve world poverty by 2015.
Mr Hewett said Australia’s aid spending already ranked below the international average when compared to other rich nations, and this delay would put our international reputation in question.
Note to editors: Andrew Hewett is in Canberra on Tuesday 8 May and Wednesday 8 May and is available for comment.
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or firstname.lastname@example.org