The 2017 Budget continues to under-invest in one of Australia’s greatest assets.
The Government’s 2017 Budget will pass on inflationary increases for overseas development assistance (ODA) for the next two years, providing a temporary reprieve to an aid budget which has been slashed by more than $11bn in the last four years.
However, from mid 2019, a two-year freeze on aid indexation will result in a further reduction of $303m. While the budget papers do not make it clear how the Government intends to use these savings, it is rumoured that monies will be diverted to fund other government priorities.
Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “The Government’s decision is bitterly disappointing and clearly fails to recognise that Australian Aid is one of our country’s most strategic assets. Not only does it improve conditions for the world’s poorest, it serves Australia’s interests by fostering economic growth in the region, creating new markets, building human capital and reducing the risks of conflict and displacement.
“Australian Aid also has a significant role in the war on terror. By reducing poverty, increasing access to education and improving living standards, Australian Aid counteracts the environments where violent extremism can take hold and thrive.”
As an embodiment of ‘soft’ diplomacy within our foreign policy framework, Australian Aid enhances national security efforts. Stronger relationships in the region allow Australia to contribute to better governance, thereby creating greater political stability. Increased economic prosperity among our neighbours reduces the risks of conflict, displacement and rising extremism.
Mr Spence added: “The assumption that the Australian Aid program is unimportant to Australia’s foreign policy goals, including overcoming terrorism, is misguided.”
International development programs consistently highlight the effective role that Australian Aid plays in building stable societies.
Mr Spence said: “Yet again, our aid program has been viewed as disposable. This is despite the fact that we are living in a period of heightened global uncertainty – a time of worsening conditions for vulnerable children around the globe.
“Diverting aid funds will likely serve to increase threats to our national security and ignores the important contribution that Australian Aid makes – not only to families living in poverty, but in building a region in which all Australians can feel safe, secure and protected.”