As Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down the 2018 budget, there was no reprieve for Australia’s overseas development assistance (ODA) program. Following years of consecutive cuts, the government’s aid spend is on track to decline to just 19c in every $100 of gross national income by 2021-22.
Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia said: “It is deeply disappointing to witness our aid program being reduced to its lowest level in history. It is an indictment of how little value we place on what is one of Australia’s most important strategic assets.
“Australian Aid not only improves conditions for some of the world’s poorest children and families, but it also serves our national interests by fostering inclusive economic growth, creating new trading markets, countering instability and reducing conflict in our region.”
Earlier this year, Australia’s declining aid levels were criticised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which stated that “the decline in aid flows, despite steady economic growth, has affected the scope of development and humanitarian programmes”.
Defence industry experts have also highlighted how the Australian aid program serves an important role in soft diplomacy, noting that instruments of ‘persuasion’ are just as necessary as instruments of war.
Mr Spence added: “We are the lucky country. Just last year, Australia recorded the longest run of uninterrupted economic growth in the developed world. It is clear that Australia can afford to look after those at home as well as support a generous aid program to help those in need in our region.”
“The shrinking aid budget reduces the investment available for girls’ education – which results in educated women who are healthier, earn higher incomes, and enable better healthcare and education for their children.
“The shrinking aid budget suggests we cannot afford to invest more in child health – which leads to an increase in child survival, a reduction in family size, and an increase in the proportion of the working population, thereby contributing to economic growth.
“These measures, as just two examples, result in increased prosperity for impoverished communities and contribute to a more prosperous, stable region which is clearly in Australia’s interest. These are investments which we cannot afford not to make.”
Currently, 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 said: “The Australian aid program should mirror our values as a nation – our commitment to responsible global citizenship, cooperation, fairness, generosity and compassion.
“Hundreds of thousands of individual Australians demonstrate these values on a daily basis through their support of international aid agencies – the importance of a fair go for all. It is time for our government to reflect these values in a strong, growing Australian Aid program.”