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.
Year-on-year these are the biggest cuts ever to Australian aid, and the latest in a series of billion dollar aid cuts by the Government. These cuts mean that aid now represents just 25 cents of every $100 of Australia’s national economy.
CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes said the massive cuts to Australia’s aid program in recent years had already seen many life-saving programs in Australia’s region discontinued or cut short, and Australia’s international standing severely crippled.
“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,” said Dr Newton-Howes.
“It will take many years for Australia’s aid program to recover from the damage that has been inflicted, and so we 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.”
CARE Australia expressed its dismay at the massive cuts made to Australian aid programs across Africa and Asia.
“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,” said Dr Newton-Howes.
Notably, the Government continues to increase spending on military, security and defense, yet is driving international aid spending to its lowest levels in history.
“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,” said Dr Newton-Howes.
“Last year’s Ebola crisis was a stark reminder of why aid is so important; poverty can quickly become an international crisis if not contained. Cutting the programs that prevent deadly outbreaks of disease, promote health and prosperity will mean that we have to spend a lot more on screening people at airports and on preventative measures here in Australia.”
Dr Newton-Howes added that CARE was relieved that funding for humanitarian response to international emergencies has been left relatively unscathed, and welcomed the Government’s establishment of a Gender Equality Fund.
“We’re pleased the Government recognises the importance of Australia’s role in international disasters and crises. However, given projections for increasing devastation from emergencies and record levels of displaced people and refugees around the world, the overall cuts to the aid program mean Australia will not be meeting its fair share of the needs in this area.”
“It is positive to see the Foreign Minister make good on her commitment to reducing gender inequality through the Gender Equality Fund. We look forward to seeing more detail on this soon,” said Dr Newton-Howes.