Major aid organisations have welcomed Labor’s vow to lift foreign aid every year, with the goal being to more than double it from the lowest level in Australian history.
The Coalition government has slashed the growth rate of foreign aid funding, opening the door for other nations to offer controversial loans to neighbouring Pacific countries. Labor plans to get Australia’s budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income.
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), said increasing funding was a “smart move for a future Australian government” and called for Labor to leverage and extend the impact of the international development program.
ACFID Director of Policy and Advocacy, Bridi Rice, said: “There is growing speculation of Australian foreign policy which serves to undermine peace and stability and the global environment in which Australia can thrive.
“After years of relentless cuts to the aid program, we are delighted that the Labor Party is showing signs of vision and leadership for an Australia where development, defence and diplomacy are equally recognised as foreign policy tools.”
Based on median wealth per adult, Australia is the richest country in the world, but has dropped to 19th as an aid donor compared to its OECD counterparts. Australia spends only 21 cents on aid and development for every $100 of income.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said unprecedented cuts to the aid budget had harmed some of the world’s poorest people.
“Labor believes Australia should do its fair share internationally,” Wong said. “We all believe Australia can show humanity, decency and compassion because we believe in a fair go for all at home, on our doorstep and abroad.”
The foreign aid budget is currently at 0.22 per cent of gross national income and will drop even lower if it stays at the same rate. A Labor government will lift foreign aid per year, starting with its first budget, to reach the international standard of 0.5 per cent.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive, Dr Helen Szoke, said the aid commitment would put vital, life-saving aid back on track towards global promises and would mean the foreign aid program would be more capable of tackling pressing global challenges.
“This comes at a time when the future of the aid budget remains unclear. [On Monday] the government confirmed in a speech that it was making major savings from the aid budget up to 2028-29, we need to clarify if these are new budget savings or an indication of a change to the government’s position,” Szoke said.
“Successive cuts to the aid program have already seen aid spending fall to just 22 cents in every $100 of gross national income over recent years – this is the lowest level in Australian history,” Szoke said. “We can and should do more.”