Budget blind to dual crises of inequality and climate change

Campaigns and Advocacy, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 02 Apr 2019

This year’s inward-looking Federal Budget does little to tackle growing inequality in Australia or the world, Oxfam Australia said tonight.

“This is an extremely disappointing Budget.  There’s been no improvement in Australia’s policies to tackle climate change, we’ve seen a continuation of cuts to Australian aid, and aid funds are being diverted from Asia to fund the ‘Pacific step-up’ and the poorly designed new Pacific infrastructure facility,” Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said.

“This Budget demonstrates that the Morrison Government lacks the leadership and the heart to meet the challenges of global inequality and climate change. It is a selfish, narrow-minded Budget that does nothing to position Australia as a nation which does its fair share in our region, or the world.

“Despite the predicted Budget surplus and a growing economy, we have seen, in essence, a continuation of cuts to the aid budget, meaning aid will continue its downward trajectory to a record low of 0.19 per cent of Gross National Income in 2021/ 22.

“And, with the Humanitarian Emergency Fund stalled at $150 million, it simply isn’t enough given current multiple humanitarian crises around the world, like the devastating flooding in southern Africa after Cyclone Idai. To meet urgent need, the Government should commit to at least doubling its total overall spending to the fund to $300 million.

“The increase in the Protracted Crises Fund to $115.5 million is a step in the right direction, but short of the $200 million Oxfam has calculated is needed to tackle ongoing crises like Syria and Yemen.

“And, while we welcome the Government’s renewed focus on our Pacific neighbours, robbing the shrinking aid budget of $500 million to fund the new Pacific infrastructure facility is ill-conceived.

“Oxfam has concerns the model behind this Pacific cash splash may only benefit Australian companies and contractors, rather than genuinely meeting the development needs of our Pacific neighbours.

“The Government can and should have looked in other places to find the funding for this program – such as from anticipated revenues from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) tax integrity package, which is a welcome extension of ATO’s corporate anti-tax-avoidance function. For four consecutive years since 2014-15 we’ve seen one in three multinationals in Australia paying zero corporate tax. The government should have gone further and introduced tax transparency measures like public country by country reporting.

“What we needed from tonight’s Budget was predictable, increased funding for Australian aid to meet growing global challenges including escalating climate damage – which is hitting the poorest people first and worst – multiple protracted humanitarian crises, extreme poverty and increasing inequality.

“We know that climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. A greater focus on climate action and helping communities prepare for increasing disasters, particularly in the Pacific, is urgently needed.

“Oxfam is further dismayed that the budget contains not one new initiative to tackle Australia’s rising carbon pollution.  The Government’s signature policy to tackle climate change, the Climate Solutions Fund, is simply a rebadging and topping-up of the existing, ineffective Emissions Reduction Fund.

“The Government is simply pumping more funding into a mechanism that has overseen an increase, not a decrease, in Australia’s overall emissions.

“This is a budget for the polluters and vested domestic interests. It is catastrophic failure of leadership in the face of the climate crisis – which is out of step with a majority of Australians – and growing inequality and it undermines the future of our Pacific neighbours.”

For interviews or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or dylanq@oxfam.org.au

Notes to editors:

  • Australian aid: It has been confirmed Australian aid will be indexed to CPI in 2022-23. This is welcome, but too little too late and Overseas Development Assistance as a percentage of Gross National Income will continue its downward trajectory to a record low of 0.19 percent.
  • The Australian Tax Office (ATO) tax integrity package, funded at $1 billion over 4 years, is a welcome extension of ATO’s corporate anti-tax-dodging avoidance function.
  • The Protracted Crises Fund has been increased from $87 million $115.5 million. This is a step in the right direction, but short of the $200 million Oxfam has calculated is needed to tackle ongoing humanitarian crises, like those in Syria and Yemen.