Abbott’s cuts to aid budget a broken promise to world’s poor

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 31 Jul 2010

Coalition costings submitted to Treasury yesterday show Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has broken his promise to match the Government’s commitments on overseas aid, Oxfam Australia said today.

“Mr Abbott has gone back on his word and will cut spending to Australia’s aid program if elected,” said Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett.

Yesterday, in election commitment costings submitted to Treasury, the Coalition outlined at least $294 million in spending cuts from the aid budget, including funds that were earmarked to help poor countries deal with the impacts of climate change.

However, on 23 April, in a foreign affairs speech to the Lowy Institute, Mr Abbott re-affirmed that the “Coalition would match the Government’s commitments on overseas aid”.

Mr Hewett said the Coalition also must urgently clarify how it would fulfill Australia’s commitments under the Copenhagen Accord, to provide fast-start finance to help developing countries adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change and develop on low carbon pathways.

“Climate change is the central poverty issue of our time.  As a leading international agency working with poor people around the world, Oxfam is seeing the world’s most vulnerable facing greater droughts, floods, hunger and disease, despite being least responsible for causing climate change,” Mr Hewett said.

He said the Government must also explain how it would meet its international obligation, as doing so would help rebuild trust in the UN Climate Change Negotiations.  As one of the highest per capita polluters in the world, Australia’s fair share of the $33 billion fast-start finance pledged by rich countries in Copenhagen is $760 million.  This needs to be additional to existing aid commitments, so that the fight against poverty is not reversed.  So far, the Government has committed only $350.4 million in climate finance for 2012-13, from the aid budget.

“The Government and Opposition are both falling short on this critical issue. Both have been silent during the election campaign on Australia’s obligation to help poor countries adapt to climate change and now we see plans to cut already insufficient funding,” Mr Hewett said.

“Whoever wins the election must commit Australia to doing its fair share to help poor countries deal with climate change they did not cause.”
The Coalition’s proposals include:
•       Remove funding – International Climate Change Adaptation Initiative: $178 million;
•       Remove funding for partnerships with multilateral agencies: $101 million;
•       Discontinue climate change bilateral partnerships: $15 million.

Both the Government and the Coalition have recently re-affirmed their commitment to increase Australia’s aid to levels of 0.5 per cent gross national income (GNI) by 2015.   “Both need to not only keep their aid commitments, but provide climate finance that is additional to these existing commitments, otherwise vital funds are being taken away from poverty reduction, which will put the world further behind on meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr Hewett said.

Australia has sent a delegation to Bonn for UN Climate Change Negotiations, which begin on Monday.

Please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or