Oxfam Australia is urging the Australian Government to honour its commitment to grow the overseas aid program in next Tuesday’s Federal Budget.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said for the government to fulfil its pledge on aid, overseas aid spending must reach 0.5 per cent of national income in 2016-17.
“Next week’s federal budget is the real test of whether the government will keep its word to help some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” Dr Szoke said.
“Last year, the Gillard Government delivered a double blow to the overseas aid program by delaying the promised 0.5 per cent target by a year, and then diverting $375 million from overseas programs to fund domestic asylum seeker costs.
“This year is crunch time for the Gillard Government to deliver its promise to increase support to the fight against global poverty. We can’t afford to delay our aid promise another year.
“Any further delays or cuts to overseas aid programs means more farmers won’t get the help they need to grow food, more children won’t get the education they need for better jobs, and too many women won’t get the support they need to deliver healthy babies.”
Dr Szoke said Oxfam will be looking for the budget papers to show overseas aid levels reach 0.37 per cent of national income in 2013-14, on the path to 0.5 per cent in 2016-17. “Anything less will be empty words and a broken promise,” she said.
The agency also wants to see overseas aid spending focused on improving the lives of people in the world’s poorest countries, not diverted to support domestic programs and policies.
Currently Australia gives 0.35 per cent of national income to overseas aid, or just 35 cents of every $100 of our national income. This ranks us 13 out of 24 OECD nations in aid spending.
Dr Szoke said Australian aid was still desperately needed, with more than one in eight people going to bed hungry every night – most of them living in Australia’s neighbouring regions.
“We know Australian aid helps to save lives and improve opportunities for some of the most vulnerable people around the world,” she said.
“Last financial year, it helped more than one million people in Africa access safe water and ensured more than 135,000 pregnant women in East Asia gave birth with the support of a skilled birth attendant.
“Aid is not charity. It’s an investment in the future of Australia, our region, and the world. As a leader on the international stage, it is also the right thing to do.”
Dr Szoke said a steady growth in Australia’s overseas aid program was needed to put us on the path to the internationally agreed target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid.
“Bipartisan support for the growing aid program is critical. Helping to reduce global poverty and hunger is an issue that is too important for party politics.”
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke will be in Canberra on May 14 and 15 for the Federal Budget.
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or email@example.com