The Abbott government has announced $650 million of cuts to Australia’s foreign aid program.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, said the government will cut $61 million from the Pacific region. Only Nauru, which houses around a thousand asylum seekers on behalf of Australia, will be exempt.
Other cuts include $59 million from Indonesia, $71 million from South and West Asia, $113 million from Africa and the Middle East, and $5.3 million from Latin America and the Carribean.
Figures released by Bishop show that Australia spent $3,747 million ($3.7 billion) in aid in 2012-13. The Gillard government’s budget increased this to $4,223.5 million for 2013-14. The Abbott government will reduce this to $3,598 million this financial year, a reduction of $625 million and $149 million less than last year’s actual spending.
The spending cuts were criticised by the Opposition’s Acting Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Senator Penny Wong. “Australia is a generous country and we can afford to lend a helping hand to those who need it most,” she said.
Save the Children said the cuts will “impact some of the most vulnerable children in the region”. Its CEO, Paul Ronalds, said: “Our international programs reach millions of children and families each year, including through nutrition programs in Cambodia, vital health services in Laos and non-formal education services for refugees from Myanmar who have fled to Thailand.”
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr. Helen Szoke said the cuts “would affect people living in extreme poverty in a number of regions around the world”.
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Text of media release from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.
Five billion dollar aid budget to focus on the region
I confirm today that the Australian Government’s annual aid budget for 2013/14 will be $5.042 billion, refocused on reducing poverty in the Indo-Pacific region and tied to rigorous benchmarks.
The Government is committed to investing aid in the sustainable development of our close neighbours. Our aim is to lift the living standards of the most vulnerable people in our region through aid for trade, better health and education outcomes, empowering women and girls and leveraging private sector involvement.
Under the Abbott Government aid spending will be tied to measurable outcomes. Rigorous benchmarks will be introduced to ensure integrity in the Australian aid program and to give Australian taxpayers greater confidence in its effectiveness. Under the previous Labor government, the rapid growth in Australia’s aid budget was neither targeted nor sustainable. With a $47 billion budget deficit this year and gross government debt projected to rise to $667 billion, we must ensure Australia’s aid program has a funding base that is responsible and affordable. This year’s aid expenditure will be $107 million less than last year. From 2014/15 the $5 billion aid budget will grow each year in line with the Consumer Price Index.
The Government is providing stability and future certainty to partner governments, international organisations and non-government organisations.
The Government has commenced a consultation process, working with key stakeholders, NGOs and partner governments, to develop rigorous benchmarks and to promote an accountable performance culture within the aid program.
I will ensure the Australian aid budget is managed effectively and directed to organisations delivering on-the-ground support to those most in need.
Text of media release from the Acting Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong.
Abbott Government Foreign Aid Cuts Across All The Regions
No region in the world will escape the Abbott Government’s $4.5 billion of aid cuts, the Foreign Minister confirmed today.
The cuts will have a direct impact on some the poorest people in the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
And despite claiming its aid program would focus on the Asia-Pacific, the Abbott Government will rip about $250 million in aid out of the region.
Despite promising otherwise before the election, the Coalition has also slashed humanitarian, NGO, and volunteer program funding.
Our aid program helps to enhance global prosperity, and Australia’s own security. The Abbott Government’s cuts put both at risk.
Today’s news comes on top of the Foreign Minister recently cutting $95 million from a fund that helps the world’s poorest countries – The World Bank’s International Development Association.
Australia is a generous country and we can afford to lend a helping hand to those who need it most.
Under the former Labor Government, Australia’s aid budget increased by nearly $3 billion.