International aid agency Oxfam Australia says Prime Minister Julia Gillard has failed an important test in keeping her promise to increase support to the world’s poor.
Tomorrow’s federal budget was the first time her commitment to increase overseas aid levels to only 50 cents in $100 of national income would have been seen in the budget papers.
Instead, the government has today revealed it plans to delay this target for much needed aid, while diverting further funds to pay for asylum seeker programs in Australia.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the continued raid on the aid budget shows the government cannot be trusted to keep its word.
“This is the Prime Minister’s harshest punch yet in a series of blows to the world’s poor. The government’s latest broken promise on aid is a further cut to those who can least afford it.”
Dr Szoke said, since the 2010 election when the Gillard Government promised to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015, it has:
- Delayed its commitment to increase aid spending to 0.5 per cent of national income to 2016-17 – one year later than it had originally promised;
- Diverted $375 million of overseas aid in 2012 to pay for its asylum seeker program in Australia;
- Forecast a further capped diversion of $375 million of overseas aid;
- Revealed a further delay of the 0.5 per cent target to at least 2017-18.
Oxfam welcomed Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s announcement today that aid levels would increase $500 million next year, reaching 0.37 per cent of national income.
But Dr Szoke said if up to $375 million was to be spent in Australia, the size of the increased support for poor people overseas could be cut to $125 million.
“At a time when the Australian Government should be showing leadership on the global stage, it has instead chosen to balance the books at the expense of the most vulnerable people in the world,” Dr Szoke said.
“Oxfam 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.
“Tomorrow’s federal budget was set to be the real test of whether the Gillard Government would keep its word to help some of the world’s poorest people. It has failed this test. All eyes will now be on the Coalition’s budget response to see if it will step up and show leadership on investing in the future of the world’s poor.”
Note to editors: 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