The Federal Opposition’s announcement that it will start to reverse damaging cuts to Australia’s aid program if elected is a welcome first step, but the scale of recent cuts means greater action would be required, Oxfam said.
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, today committed to providing an additional $30 million to Australian international development NGOs annually.
Oxfam Chief Executive, Dr Helen Szoke said the announcement followed a series of successive cuts that had reduced the aid budget by $11.3 billion, and while modest, Labor’s promise of additional funding for international development organisations was at least taking the budget in the right direction.
“I welcome this announcement, which will go some way to returning poor people to the heart of Australia’s aid program,” Dr Szoke said.
“The recent cuts to Australia’s aid program come at a time of historic humanitarian need, and soon after Australia joined with the rest of the world to commit to global goals to tackle poverty, the Sustainable Development Goals.
“If realised this funding could mean more jobs and employment in developing countries, especially for women and young people, enable farmers to be able to produce more food, and ensure vulnerable communities are more prepared for disasters and the impact of climate change.
“This is welcome news for people who live in poverty and it is also good news for Australia because aid enhances regional prosperity and security.
“But it is only the beginning of the process. What is needed is greater certainty and increased commitment throughout the aid program and I call on both the Government and the opposition to commit to a path to increase Australia’s aid levels to 0.5 per cent gross national income.”
Labor has also committed to legislating the tabling of the ‘Blue Book’, the Ministerial Statement on Australia’s international development program as part of the Federal Budget. This statement which transparently provides details of the regional and thematic priorities of the Australian aid program was not made available for the first time. The Blue Book enables Australians to understand where their taxes are being spent.
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