The Gillard Government’s latest broken promise on growing the overseas aid program will have a devastating impact on the world’s poorest people, reducing Australia’s aid commitment by $1.9 billion, Oxfam Australia said today.
In response to tonight’s federal budget, the international aid agency also said it was deeply disappointing to see the government plunder another $375 million from the overseas aid program to pay for its domestic asylum seeker policy.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said that the good news this year with aid levels rising from 0.35 to 0.37 per cent was overshadowed by the government’s decision to again delay, by one year, its pledge to grow the overseas aid budget to 0.5 per cent of national income.
“This decision will cost approximately 1.9 billion to our fight against global poverty,” said Dr Szoke.
“That’s $1.9 billion that would otherwise have been spent in some of the world’s poorest countries, making sure children can go to school, that families have enough food to eat, and communities can access safe drinking water.”
On top of previous delays to meeting the 0.5 per cent aid spending target, Australia’s aid effort has been reduced by a total of approximately $4.8 billion since the 2011-12 federal budget.
“This government has failed the world’s poorest people. Every dollar denied has real impacts for people living in poverty,” Dr Szoke said.
“We know Australian aid helps to save lives and improve opportunities for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“Last financial year, Australian aid 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.
Dr Szoke also said the diversion of $375 million from the overseas aid program to pay for onshore asylum seeker costs meant Australia would be the third largest recipient of its own aid, behind Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
“We are fortunate in Australia that we can afford to help those in need at home, as well as provide life-saving aid to those beyond our borders. Australians expect our overseas aid to be focused on helping poor people overseas, not to prop up the funding of domestic asylum seeker policies.
“The government’s continued raid on the overseas aid program will mean 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.”
Oxfam is urging the government to show leadership on this issue and ensure investment in the overseas aid program gets back on track as soon as possible, with no funds diverted to pay for domestic programs.
“Millions of people around the world are depending on Australia’s promise to step up its fight against global hunger and poverty, and with one in eight people still going hungry every day, we cannot afford to wait,” Dr Szoke said.
“Oxfam is now looking to the Coalition to show leadership on this issue and commit to a timeline to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of national income.”
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke is 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 firstname.lastname@example.org