ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence has welcomed the announcement by Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong that the Labor government will rebuild the Australian Aid program, if successful at the next Federal Election.
Mr Spence said: “Australia has a long history as a generous donor and partner to developing countries in our region.
“This has helped us to forge a reputation as a good neighbour, willing to contribute its fair share to reducing poverty, providing emergency humanitarian assistance, and upholding and advancing international frameworks and standards.
“Unfortunately, successive cuts to our overseas development assistance (ODA) have weakened efforts to overcome poverty in the region and has meant that our reputation has been tarnished. We welcome Senator Wong’s recognition that the Australian Aid program is an important pillar of our foreign policy.”
Currently, the aid budget is at its lowest level in Australia’s history. Five years of budget reductions, amounting to $11b, mean that ODA accounts for just just 22c in every $100 of gross national income and is on track to decline further, to just 19c in 2021.
Among its developed country peers, Australia has the 9th largest economy of the 30 nations, yet in terms of generosity as an aid donor it is now at 19th place, having fallen from 13th in 2011.
Mr Spence notes: “The current status of our aid program is such a poor reflection of our national values of compassion, generosity and fairness.
“Not only does Australian Aid improve conditions for the world’s poorest children and families, but it serves our national interests by fostering inclusive economic growth, creating new trading markets, countering instability and reducing conflict in our region.”
While Penny Wong did not elaborate on how much the aid budget would increase by each year, a resolution was passed at the Labor Party Conference to “achieve a funding target for the international development program of at least 0.5% of gross national income”.
The Coalition government has yet to announce changes to foreign policy, but Mr Spence has urged that both sides of politics come together on aid.
“In 2014, the Senate Inquiry into Australia’s overseas aid and development assistance program recommended that a bipartisan agreement on the long-term funding of Australian’s overseas development be developed, in order to reach international targets.
“Five years later, we want to see this become a reality. Regardless of who wins the next Federal Election, we want to see an Australian Aid program that is valued by all of our government representatives, and that they demonstrate a real commitment to rebuilding, supporting and progressing the Australian Aid program.”