The Australian Government’s desperate gouging of the aid budget has created a lose-lose scenario that will cut vital programs helping some of the world’s poorest and also harm Australia’s interests, Oxfam said.
The Federal Budget tonight confirmed a massive $1 billion cut – the largest single cut to the aid program in Australia’s history – reducing spending on aid to just 25 cents in every $100 of national income.
Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said that while the cut had been foreshadowed, the news still came as a severe blow that would have real and serious consequences, both at home and abroad.
“Our worst fears have been confirmed by the Government tonight – it has turned its back on millions of people who rely on Australian aid and gambled with Australia’s interests,” Dr Szoke said.
“Aid not only saves lives and helps people rise out of poverty, it is an essential investment in the security and stability of our region and our economy. This lose-lose budget grab will ultimately help no one.
“We’ve also seen with the second earthquake in Nepal tonight how unpredictable natural disasters are and how important it is to help countries prepare for them.”
Since coming to Government, the Coalition has announced a total of $11.3 billion in funding cuts to aid, representing one fifth of all savings made. Oxfam Australia has already had to cut funds to its life changing aid programs in every region, and further reductions are now inevitable.
In Sub-Saharan Africa – the poorest region in the world – Australian Aid has become next to nothing, cut by 70 per cent tonight. This almost certainly means the closure of a highly successful program that would have helped 750,000 people, most of them women and girls, with essential water and sanitation and other vital assistance.
In Bangladesh, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, cuts have forced Oxfam to cancel Australian funding for life-saving work that prepares communities for cyclones, earthquakes and floods.
“For many there will be real fear about what tonight’s cuts will mean for them and their families, as decisions are made about who loses out on things like clean water and initiatives tackling gender based violence,” Dr Szoke said.
“The Coalition Government has laid out a path for Australia – the second wealthiest country per capita in the world – to give our lowest aid level ever.
“Australians want to be proud of our government’s leadership on the world stage, not embarrassed. We have worked hard as a country to become one of the richest nations, we don’t want to be one of the meanest.
“Now is the time to be both compassionate and clever, with a budget that delivers for the world’s poorest, and Australia’s national interest.”
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