The Abbott Government has torn up its promise to increase aid to those who need it most by handing down a budget that will overturn Australia’s investment in tackling major regional challenges, including poverty and inequality.
“The Government has broken its better-than-nothing promise to marginally increase Australia’s aid budget, announcing the latest in an onslaught of successive cuts to our aid program,” Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said.
“Having already made $4.5 billion in cuts to Australia’s modest aid program ahead of the budget, tonight’s decision to flat-line aid for two years brings total cuts to $7.6 billion. This broken promise is yet another blow to the millions in our region living on less than $2 a day – most of whom are women.
“The Asia Pacific region faces a perfect storm of complex challenges with potentially devastating impacts for our poorer neighbours and also for Australia. Our region is home to the largest number of hungry people in the world, is particularly vulnerable to climate change, is expected to face more devastating disasters and has some of the worst rates of violence against women.
These challenges present significant obstacles to our efforts to advance development, security and stability in the region. Indeed some of them could lead to substantial economic losses, which will only exacerbate future budget challenges.”
Dr Szoke said Australia had one of the strongest economies and lowest debt levels in the world.
“We must do our share of heavy lifting to tackle the challenges that will define the future security and prosperity of our region and the world,” she said.
“Tonight’s budget falls devastatingly short of this, with other nations including the UK delivering more than double Australia’s effort in tackling global poverty.
“In stark contrast, tonight’s $7.6 billion aid cut means the poorest of the world are shouldering by far the largest of all cuts over the next five years.
“Australia must lift our game if we are to reverse trends like just one per cent of the global population owning almost half the world’s wealth; and one in eight people experiencing hunger every day, despite there being enough food to feed us all.”
Within the aid budget, the commitment of only $339 million to respond to humanitarian crises is also inadequately low.
“The rising impact of crises is pushing the international humanitarian system to the brink. Unless countries like Australia invest more in humanitarian assistance and efforts to reduce disaster risk we are going to see more people go without life-saving assistance,” Dr Szoke said.
“Strong investment in humanitarian response and climate action is essential if we are to tackle this challenge head on. Otherwise, we will be leaving our poor and vulnerable neighbours in the Asia Pacific region hungry and still hoping for action from nations such as ours.”
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