ChildFund Australia has expressed disappointment with the Government’s decision to make further cuts to Australia’s aid program. In his first Budget address, Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that the overseas development assistance fund would not receive the standard CPI indexed increase for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
This decision runs contrary to recent promises to make no additional reductions to Australia’s aid budget, following a massive mid-year clawback of $656 million. Only in March, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed that the aid program in 2014-15 would be increased in line with CPI, in order to deliver ongoing and vital support to Australia’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region.
Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “Australia’s aid program is a world leader, and during the last decade has played an important role in some significant achievements, including five million fewer child deaths per annum. However, it is only possible to make a real impact where funding is stable and consistent.”
Currently, Australia’s aid budget represents less than 0.5 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI). With debt levels currently lower than any other developed economy, Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to respond to those in need in Australia and deliver poverty alleviation programs overseas.
The treasurer did announce an increase in humanitarian funding, which has been welcomed by ChildFund after calling on the government last week to ring-fence aid funding for disaster risk reduction programs as well as emergency relief.
Mr Spence said: “Our aid program saves lives. It means Australia can respond to the devastating humanitarian emergencies in our region, including last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. As one of the Philippines’ nearest neighbours, the Australian Government not only provided significant financial support, but was able to deploy defence force aircraft carrying supplies such as water purification systems and power generators, and establish a field hospital in the worst hit area of Tacloban, staffed by Australian medical specialists.”
Millions of everyday Australians support the work of aid charities such as ChildFund, and consistently demonstrate their conviction that Australia has an important role to play in helping the most vulnerable children and families in developing countries. In the last year alone, the Australian public donated an enormous $870m to international development organisations.
Mr Spence added: “It is vital to remember that the Government’s overseas aid program creates stability in our region, by fostering economic growth and opportunities in poor communities. This increased prosperity among our neighbours is also shared by Australia.
“Our aid budget is arguably the only one where such a small investment can make such an enormous difference. Every single cent invested in our aid program is worthwhile, and every single dollar that is withheld puts lives at risk.”