Coalition shows compassion deficit as it tears up commitment to overseas aid

Media Releases article written on the 05 Sep 2013

International development agency Oxfam Australia says the Coalition’s $4.5 billion proposed hit to the overseas aid budget comes at the expense of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The agency said the Coalition’s announcement was the latest blow for the overseas aid program, which has had its funding diverted and delayed on numerous occasions over the past two years.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the Coalition’s plan continued the alarming trend of Australian political parties raiding the overseas aid budget.

“The overseas aid budget is Australia’s commitment to the world’s poor and vulnerable, and is not an ATM for political parties in search of cash to prop up their bottom line,” Dr Szoke said.

During the last election, both major parties made a promise to increase Australia’s investment in fighting global poverty and hunger. “In recent years the pursuit of a budget surplus has left us with a compassion deficit,” Dr Szoke said.

“We’ve already seen the Labor Government go back on its word. Now, we’re seeing the Coalition head down the same path. It’s deeply disappointing to see a race to the bottom on our support to the world’s poorest people.”

She said Australians, as individuals, were among the most generous people on the planet and they expected their government to play its part. “In the lead-up to this election, thousands of Australians have gathered at local electoral events to show their support for overseas aid,” Dr Szoke said.

“Voters that care about those less fortunate overseas will be deeply disappointed in the lack of leadership displayed on this issue by both major parties. This eleventh-hour election campaign raid on the aid budget will have a direct impact on the people and communities in poor countries who are relying on this assistance.”

Since 1990, aid has helped to reduce extreme poverty, including almost halving the number of children around the world who die before their fifth birthday – that’s 14,000 fewer children dying every day.

Last year, Australia’s overseas aid program vaccinated more than 2.7 million children, provided safe water for an extra 2.2 million people, and ensured one million children enrolled in school.

“Australia’s overseas aid budget is an investment in the future stability and prosperity of people in the world’s poorest countries, many of them our near neighbours,” Dr Szoke said. “It helps children go to school, it helps people to feed their families, and it helps communities access clean water and healthcare.

“In the dawn of the Asian Century, both major parties have shown a lack of foresight by decreasing Australia’s investment in a more prosperous, more equal and stable region.”

In 2010, both major parties committed in their election policies to lifting Australia’s overseas aid to 0.5 per cent of national income – or 50 cents out of every $100 of income – by 2015-16. This commitment now lies in tatters with Labor having pushed this target out to 2017-18 and the Coalition effectively promising to freeze the budget for the foreseeable future.

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or