Dear Joe Hockey,
As CEO of CARE Australia, which last year helped over 2 million people across 23 developing countries, I feel the $1 billion cut to international aid delivered in the 2015 Federal Budget has left Australia’s international reputation in tatters, and left thousands of families cut off from life-saving programs in Australia’s region.
Prior to this budget, Australia’s international aid program – once one of our country’s proudest international achievements – had effectively become the government’s ATM; the place to withdraw funding on a whim. Notably, the Government continues to increase spending on military, security and defense, yet is driving international aid spending to its lowest levels in history.
These continued cuts, the biggest cuts ever to Australian aid, mean that aid now represents just 25 cents of every $100 of Australia’s national economy and is continuing to fall. We’ve already seen many life-saving programs in Australia’s region discontinued or cut short, and Australia’s international standing severely crippled as a result. So I call on the Government to make good on its pre-election promise to, like many likeminded economies, bring international aid to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income.
I’m dismayed at the massive cuts made to Australian aid programs across Africa and Asia. The 70% and 40% cuts respectively say that Australia is turning its back on poor communities across Africa and Asia, and putting at risk the hard-won development gains we have made over many years in countries like Afghanistan. Helping people out of poverty and reducing inequality and injustice are, without question, the most effective ways to strengthen our relationships with our neighbours and foster a safe and prosperous region for all.
It is a big relief that the Government recognises the importance of Australia’s role in international disasters and crises. However, given projections for increasing devastation from emergencies, as we have seen in Vanuatu and now again in Nepal, and record levels of displaced people and refugees around the world, the overall cuts to the aid program mean Australia will not be contributing its fair share to finding solutions to these problems.
I urge you, as our Treasurer, to re-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 in our neighbourhood.
Dr Julia Newton-Howes
CEO CARE Australia
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