Tonight’s Budget confirms the Federal Government’s continued gouging of the aid budget, an action at odds with the vision it holds for a peaceful and prosperous region, Oxfam Australia said tonight.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said the Federal Budget had kept the aid budget roughly in line with inflation at $4 billion, equating to just 22 cents in every $100 of gross national income. The Budget also maintains the freeze put in place last year on future aid increases.
“This Budget freeze represents a further chilling of the Government’s attitude towards aid – over the next four years of the forward estimates, it equates to a new cut to aid of $141 million, bringing total cuts to $444 million,” Dr Szoke said.
“Spending on aid is such a minuscule part of the Budget; Australia has the ability to support both an aid program that does its fair share to reflect the government’s own vision of a stable, secure and prosperous region – and beyond – and spending here at home.
“An aid budget that reflects Australia’s role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges looks further and further from our reach.
“This year already saw Australia fall behind in meeting our international obligations, dropping from 17 to 19 of the 28 OECD aid-giving countries. We are seeing demonstrably effective, long-term aid programs being cut back globally.”
Dr Szoke said while a small increase to the Protracted Crises fund of $8.8 million was welcome, there was no increase in tonight’s Budget to the Humanitarian Emergency Fund.
“Overall, it is simply not enough given current multiple humanitarian crises. To meet urgent need, the government should commit to at least doubling its total overall spending to the fund to $300 million,” she said.
“It shouldn’t be a case of either or – long-term development to reduce poverty, inequality and build resilience is as important a part of the equation as funding for humanitarian crises response.
“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.”
She said that at the same time, the government had made a choice to rip billions out of Australia’s public coffers by giving some of the country’s largest multinational firms tax cuts, a move that would do nothing to ease spiralling inequality.
Dr Szoke said as well as sticking to corporate tax cut plans, there was a notable failure to introduce comprehensive measures to tackle corporate tax-dodging by multinationals here and abroad.
“Oxfam estimates up to $5-6 billion is lost annually to Australia’s coffers through tax haven use by big Australian-based multinationals, while developing countries lose another nearly $3 billion,” she said.
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