Foreign aid is an area of the budget which has many Australians perplexed. Why are we sending $3.9 billion a year overseas when we have many Australians living in poverty and our federal government debt currently stands at $620 billion?
The good news is some elements of the Turnbull Government are considering in the May 2018-19 budget cutting our foreign aid spend by $400 million as reported by Fairfax Media on Wednesday night. The cut in aid will largely come from nations in south-east Asia for the sensible reason they have reached middle income status and should be capable of funding their own development.
However the outcry from the vested interests in the globalist foreign aid industry has already began. The Fairfax article spin on the proposal is our overall aid contribution would be at an all time low. It quotes Tim Costello, formerly of World Vision, but now Executive Director of aid advocacy group Micah Australia saying “I hope the government is not going to fund tax cuts on the backs of the world’s poorest people….that is a logic that terrifies me”.
Over on the Guardian Save the Children’s director of public affairs and policy, Mat Tinkler claimed the report contradicted a commitment from International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells “How does that square with today’s media reports that the government is considering hacking another $400m from the aid budget, a lifeline to many of the poorest people in our region?” Other aid groups who objected were the Australian Council for International Development and the Fred Hollows Foundation.
If these charities believe that foreign aid is so effective then they should focus more on their own fundraising efforts to obtain voluntary donations rather than having them forced from taxpayers. Of course the reality is foreign aid benefits mostly corrupt governments in poor countries and fails to empower people living in those countries to get out of poverty.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann wouldn’t comment on the report only saying “The budget will be delivered on the second Tuesday of May”. The Turnbull Government had already introduced a two year freeze on the foreign aid budget at $4.01 billion starting this financial year.
Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong has already committed Labor to rebuilding Australia’s international development assistance program and increase aid investment beyond current levels. She appeared on Sky News to decry the government’s proposed cut and the fact they had cut $11 billion from the foreign aid budget over their time in Government.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale also on Sky News called the proposed cut mean “The last thing we should be doing is cutting aid for the world’s poorest people. These are people who are living on a few dollars a day, people who don’t have access to health and education”.
Most likely the biggest obstacles for the Turnbull Government to overcome in implementing this policy is both the aid lobby assisted by their friends in the media and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who whenever she goes overseas brings out the chequebook. Let’s hope that this easy budget saving comes to fruition budget night.