An open letter to Mr Abbott: Invest in foreign aid for a prosperous Australia

By CARE Australia September 7, 2013 32 comments

CARE Australia CEO Julia Newton-Howes in Malawi. ©Josh Estey/CARE

Dear Mr Abbott,

Congratulations on your election as Prime Minister of Australia.

As CEO of CARE Australia, which last year helped 3.6 million people across 26 developing countries, I welcome your commitment this week to better leverage NGOs’ experience to deliver on-the-ground support for some of the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world.

However, your decision to cut $4.5 billion from the foreign aid budget will have a devastating impact on people living in poverty across the globe and in many of our neighbouring countries. Australia – and Australia’s last Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard – made a historic promise to contribute 0.5 per cent of Australia’s Gross National Income to overseas aid as part of the Millennium Development Goals. While I welcome your commitment to achieving this goal, I urge your Government to set a timeline for doing so.

Here is why:

  • As well as saving lives and helping some of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, aid also fosters economic growth and enhances our region’s security.
  • If we do not tackle the problem of extreme poverty, already pressing problems such as conflict, mass migration and uncontrollable climate change will be made worse.
  • Australia will ultimately be judged by both the effectiveness of its aid program and the extent to which it meets those internationally agreed targets for aid volume.

Mr Abbott, we do not have to choose between the needs of Australians and the millions of people who live in poverty – we are wealthy enough to take care of both. This is a view shared by the Australian public.

An omnibus survey last year showed that almost 60 per cent of Australians believe that giving aid should not be a negotiable item in the Federal Budget.

Australia is not a generous aid donor, but we should be. Our aid program is helping to create a more stable and prosperous world in which Australia will flourish. As a prominent member of the international community, the current Chair of the United Nations Security Council and the 2014 Chair of the G20, Australia must pay a fair share of assistance to the address the world’s most pressing problems.

I urge you, as our Prime Minister-elect, to consider whether Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, can afford to cut the assistance required to meet the humanitarian and development needs of the poorest.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Julia Newton-Howes
CEO CARE Australia

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32 Comments Leave new

christopher Sep 25 2013 at 07:09

The Giving of Aid should be a private citizens responsibility. The Australian Government is responsible to Australian for schools hospitals infrastructure etc...... It actually is not responsible for the rest of the world.

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Adam Pearce Sep 25 2013 at 07:09

You god isn't going to save anyone in need. We need to invest money to help people. Please look past your shallow religious views and invest to help people in need

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Lauren Cook Sep 23 2013 at 12:09

As someone who was heavily involved with UNICEF Australia's recent Promise Me campaign, I find it absolutely horrendous that the Coalition has completely ignored the 26,000+ people who actively signed in support of an increase in Australia's foreign aid budget. I am completely ashamed to now have a government that not only misrepresents the feelings of their own constituents, but- worse- also neglects the most vulnerable and underprivileged around the world. Australia is a very lucky country, because we can afford to look after not only our own people (and I know there are people in Australia who need it), but also people in developing nations. I am embarrassed that we are too selfish to do both.

Also, regarding the money that get's lost to corruption, AusAid's report from 2012 found that only 0.012% (12c in every $1000) gets lost to corruption. I think that this figure deems all corruption-related arguments redundant, and proves that Australia's investment in foreign aid is not only worthwhile, but something to be extremely proud of. It's a shame that Mr Abbott and his colleagues think that roads are more important.

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John Clegg Sep 23 2013 at 08:09

I'd like to see money spent on both, God knows there is plenty of it. It makes me sick that so many of our politicians have to "endure" junket travel trips abroad, when we live in an age of technology. Surely the money saved on these ventures alone could be forwarded to foreign aid and fix our roads, especially in South Australia.

Annette Tricarico Sep 16 2013 at 10:09

Please support those less fortunate than us. Australians are so lucky to live in peace and safety. We are more than capable of assisting people living in fear and poverty. Australia does care!

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E. Dwyer Sep 14 2013 at 01:09

Australians cannot afford NOT to support people in third world countries who are living in poverty and sometimes also in fear. Please Mr Abbot think courageously - make your government's mark by treading where every other government has feared to tread. If we do not support these people then they will become desperate and desperation brings even greater chaos and problems for everyone..

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R. Deen Sep 10 2013 at 07:09

Dear Mr. Abbott, please reconsider your decision. Today, they are in need, tomorrow it could be our turn.. We are a generous nation with big hearts.... The generations to come will learn from our actions today.. Set them a good example please.

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Neola Sep 10 2013 at 04:09

Dear Mr Abbott, as a humanitarian, please do not make the poor pay and suffer even more than they have to. You want to stop the boats - helpiong people to stay and survive in their own countrries is a good start.

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Jill leeton Sep 10 2013 at 04:09

Please, Mr Abbott, reconsider your decision to reduce ForeignAid by $4.5 billion. We are privileged here in Australia and it was deeply disturbing to hear of your decision . I believe in my heart that you review your plan . You profess to be a person of empathy and high moral principals . Australians are known to be generous and caring . Please understand that we would feel proudly saddened and shamed should you go ahead with this plan.

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John Chapman Sep 10 2013 at 01:09

Even if we wanted to be really self-centred (which we don't) this savage cutting of foreign aid is bad for Australia. More famine, more unrest in our neighbouring countries, potential increase in terrorosm by those who are disaffected, more wars, more boat people (that would be ok if we accepted them!), less overseas generosity when we are in trouble. This makes no sense even if we wanted to be self-centred and there are so many more reasons than those above if we don't. I also agree with the earlier comment that some links to add our names to the letter would be useful.

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John Clegg Sep 10 2013 at 11:09

Mr Abbott, there is so much waste by Governments of all persuasions in this Country, we saw an example of this recently in the amount of money being spent on election propaganda materials etc. not to mention the salaries being afforded to our politicians and beauracrats I know you and Mr Hockey are both fair minded men and would not tolerate human suffering within your control and for this reason, I'm asking that you please reconsider your options.

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Rensina Sep 10 2013 at 11:09

Getting aid there, where it is needed, is one issue the bigger issue is following up 'where' the $$$ go. ALOT of aid money ends up in the pockets of a few very corrupt Govt officials and Military leaders. We need to get the aid there and carry it through till it has achieved what we are setting out to do....feed people and create some sustainability for them....long term. In some countries in Africa...it is NOT happening.....Nigeria....Cameroon....?????

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careaustralia Sep 10 2013 at 02:09

Hi Rensina,

Thanks for reading CARE's blog.

An independent review in 2011-12 found Australian aid effective, efficiently delivered & in good repair - you can read the full review here: http://www.ausaid.gov.au/Publications/Documents/annual-review-aid-effectiveness.pdf

In relation to CARE Australia, 88 cents of every dollar we spend goes to our programs on the ground. If you would like more information about CARE's work, our Asia Impact Report is a great place to start. The report - the first of its kind in Australia - reviews CARE's work in Asia from 2005-10 and is part of CARE's commitment to transparency. You can download it from our website: http://www.care.org.au/document.doc?id=1054

Jean McLean Sep 10 2013 at 11:09

Can you comment on Peter Dickson's statement above? Where does the truth lie?

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Stephen Walker Sep 10 2013 at 10:09

We are one of the few members of the OECD that survived the GFC and did not enter recession; the average Australian wage is 22 times higher than the average global wage and places the average Australian in the 3% of the worlds wealthiest people; our economy continues to grow; we have record low interest rates; we have low jobless rates; and our resources are the envy of the globe.

Explain to me again we we can't afford to support the worlds poorest people? To alleviate suffering, starvation, child and maternal mortality?

Stephen Walker

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Mia Z Sep 10 2013 at 09:09

As someone who adheres to Christian values myself, I find Mr Abbott's plan for cutting foreign aid not only offensive and hypocritical, but disconcerting. Will this decision hurt our international relations if we paint ourselves as mean-spirited (and, therefore, difficult to negotiate with)?

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Greg Warner Sep 10 2013 at 09:09

I suspect that when Mr Abbott left the seminary they hadn't yet reached the part about charity...this policy is yet another example of appealing to the baser level of Australia's voters

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Shannon Sep 10 2013 at 09:09

This is not the time to cut aid, we are wealthy and want to share with those less fortunate outside of Australia. The repercussions of such a dramatic aid cut will only come back to us in the future.

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Donald lane Sep 10 2013 at 07:09

Have a heart boss

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steve small Sep 10 2013 at 12:09

I agree entirely however, UK with its difficulties can maintain a higher level of aid, why can't we?

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Judith McColl Sep 09 2013 at 11:09

Tony Abbott professes to be Christian but cutting aid to those most in need is not adhering to Christian teaching ; letting hundreds of children and babies die unnecessarily while paying rich Australian mothers to have a baby is as selfish as it gets

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ruud konings Sep 09 2013 at 10:09

I do hope that mr Abbott will review his plan to cut the $ 4,5 billion from the foreign aid budget and that he will show a bit of humanity.

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dianne Gillett Sep 09 2013 at 09:09

Mr Abott please help people when they are most vunerable and they are less likely to risk their lives on a leaky boat!

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Lyndall Baum Sep 09 2013 at 09:09

Please reconsider the policy of cutting $4.5 billion to foreign aid

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Peter Duncan Sep 09 2013 at 07:09

Fully support this letter Peter Duncan

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peter dickson Sep 09 2013 at 05:09

I agree with Tony Abbott - - Also they are not cutting $4.5 billion from the aid budget - they are reducing the rate of growth. I would have expected an organization like yourselves not to misrepresent the truth.

Mr Abbott is I believe a person of conviction and humanity - Loose handing of the truth by your selves is not the right approach for the outcomes you seek. peter dickson

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careaustralia Sep 10 2013 at 02:09

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your comment.

In their election costings, the Coalition announced a cut in projected aid spending of $4.5 billion.

The funds you referred to, which would have been essential to meeting the Coalition's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, were previously budgeted to foreign aid and are now being diverted for infrastructure projects. As a result, the aid budget is going to be at a loss of $4.5 billion.

In 2013-14, Australian aid totalled $5.7 billion. To put this into context, it is equal to less than half of one per cent of gross national income – 0.37 per cent to be exact. By comparison, the Australian government allocates $56.6bn to healthcare, $36.6 billion to education and $29.9 billion to military spending.

CARE Australia does welcome Mr Abbot’s commitment this week to prioritise aid efficiency through the better leveraging of NGOs’ experience to deliver on-the-ground support for some of the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world.

Anne-Maree Wheeler Sep 10 2013 at 05:09

Why leave the most important part of your reply to the last paragraph? Having lived in places needing aid, I and many others know of the corruption that takes place. Aid efficiency is paramount.

Piers Dudman Sep 09 2013 at 05:09

Come on Mr Abbott - don't make your first move to paint Australia as a mean spirited and shortsighted nation

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Ashley Voigt Sep 09 2013 at 05:09

Please Tony, do the right thing. Australians can afford to help our less fortunate neighbours.

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Ada Sep 09 2013 at 04:09

Dear Mr Abbott The people of Australia have faith in you by electing you Prime Minister of Australia, now do the right thing and help the less fortunate don't cut overseas aid think of the children going hungry and drinking dirty water while you sit down to enjoy your evening meal with your family. I know that Australia needs to get back on track but the people of Australia have always been generous and I am sure they will be happy if you help our starving neighbours. Ada

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Dianne Hills Sep 09 2013 at 04:09

Good letter... It may make it more effective if like 'Getup' you put links to click so concerned people can put their name and email on letters to MPs.. Dianne

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