ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence has today criticised the Government’s plans to delay promised aid increases by another year and spend further overseas aid domestically on asylum seeker costs.
The Gillard Government has announced a 9.6 per cent aid increase on 2012-13, bringing the aid budget to 0.37 per cent of gross national income (GNI). However, the promised aid target of 0.5 per cent of GNI has been deferred for a second time to 2017-18.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has also confirmed the government will spend another $375 million of the overseas aid budget on asylum seeker costs in Australia. This comes just five months after the last diversion of aid funds for domestic purposes.
ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence says: “Even in relatively slow economic times, Australia is a wealthy nation and can afford to maintain its commitments to the world’s poor. There are other ways for the Government to balance its books than retracting funds that were intended for the world’s poorest people.”
Australian Council for International Development executive director Marc Purcell says the December cuts have already forced the closure of health, education and women’s rights programs.
“In the space of six short months the Government has managed to divert $750 million in total to domestic costs. It simply isn’t overseas aid,” Mr Purcell said. “$750 million could immunise 250 million children against life-threatening diseases in developing countries. It could buy 300 million birthing kits for mothers with no skilled birth attendant and no clean hospital to go to.
“These are sobering figures when you know that in the developing world over 800 women and girls die every single day in childbirth. That’s one every two minutes.”
Slowing the overseas aid budget will be a severe setback for many of the world’s most vulnerable children. Since 1990 global poverty has been halved, the number of children dying each year has dropped from 12 million to less than 7 million, and primary school enrolments are up. Adequate and predictable financing is essential to maintain this momentum.
“We welcome the Government restating its commitment to aid, but the decision to defer promised aid increases and divert funding from overseas aid to domestic spending is at odds with this,Û Mr Spence said. ÛÏWe are extremely disappointed with this budget announcement.”
PHOTO: Children in Nonghet, Laos have a much better chance of staying healthy and completing their primary education with new schools, safe water supplies and toilets in their villages. These projects were undertaken with the support of ChildFund Australia and the Australian governmentÛªs aid program. [Photo by Cindy Bryson/ChildFund Australia]