Smith and Bishop miss opportunity to increase aid, but Coalition’s Aid Minister a welcome development

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 13 Aug 2010

Stephen Smith and Julie Bishop missed a crucial opportunity to commit to further lifting Australia’s foreign aid spending to match comparable wealthy countries at today’s election debate, international aid agency Oxfam Australia said.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said the time had come for both sides of politics to commit to lifting Australia’s aid spending to the UN target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI).

“Oxfam welcomes the fact that both sides of politics have reaffirmed previous commitments to lifting aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GNI. But the reality is that still leaves Australia lagging behind comparable countries like Britain,” Mr Hewett said.

Oxfam is very pleased that the Coalition has committed to creating a Minister for International Development, rather than leaving the position as a Parliamentary Secretary.

“Creating a ministerial position for international development will allow for a whole of government approach to the way Australian engages in these important issues. It will bring increased focus and clarity to Australia’s development work,” Mr Hewett said.

“The commitment to appoint a minister is a major step forward and one which the Labor Party should now match. While Labor’s decision to elevate AusAID to an executive agency is a step in the right direction, it is not enough.”

Oxfam is also pleased that both Labor and the Coalition made commitments to ensure that Australia’s foreign aid spending is effective and accountable.

“It is vital that Australia’s aid reaches those who need it most. Oxfam believes the recent review of AusAID by the Australian National Audit Office highlighted issues that AusAID is addressing. This will serve to improve the focus and accountability of Australia’s aid program,” Mr Hewett said.

“However, the Coalition’s commitment to conduct an independent assessment of waste and mismanagement in the aid program risks leaving the program paralysed and unable to function effectively. Oxfam believes it would be more productive to conduct a short, sharp strategic review to position AusAID to effectively spend its increased budget.”

“Oxfam has welcomed the Coalition’s commitment to boosting the involvement of
non-government organisations in the aid program and we look forward to working with Ms Bishop on this should the Coalition be elected,” Mr Hewett said.

“Australia’s aid program is a vital part of our engagement with the world and reflects Australia’s values as an international global citizen. In recent years its effectiveness has been greatly enhanced with measures including a greater budget, a focus on the Millennium Development Goals and its partnership approach with recipient governments. Now is the time to build on that good work,” Mr Hewett said.

For more information or to interview Andrew Hewett contact Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559, email