Last week many Australians were dismayed when Foreign Minister Julie Bishop appeared to respond to a tweet from popstar Rihanna asking for money for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) by pledging $90 million of Australian taxpayers’ money. What was even more astounding was the complaints that it was below the $200 million that had been demanded by Rihanna.
Australia’s foreign aid budget of $3.9 billion for the 2017-18 financial year and Bishop’s tendency to write out a cheque everytime she goes overseas has been strong criticised by many fiscal conservatives and Australia first campaigners. It is a similar pattern of behaviour that Kevin Rudd engaged in when he was Foreign Minister jetsetting the world.
While many despair at Julie Bishop’s frequent opening of the nation’s chequebook it would appear under a future Labor Government foreign aid spending would be even more excessive. Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced through a media release and a Facebook post that a Shorten Labor Government would “rebuild Australia’s international development assistance program and increase aid investment beyond current levels”.
There is no detail about how much this increase would be, it is clearly designed to be a feel good announcement by the Opposition which the detail is to be worked out later (in other words how much the taxpayer will be on the hook for?). Penny Wong had previously indicated she was broadly supportive of the United Nations target of all developed nations spending 0.7% of their national income (GDP) on foreign aid
Wong claimed that the Abbott and Turnbull Governments “slashed well over $11 billion from our International Development Assistance Budget” and went onto say that “these cuts are a source of international embarrassment for Australia”.
Wong also appeared on ABC News The World last night to claim that these alleged cuts have devastating consequences on developing nations while spruking Labor’s new policy.
It is this type of spending policy that the Coalition could really attack Labor but given Julie Bishop’s current approach to foreign aid and of course scared of being called heartless and cruel this is unlikely to occur. The voters of Australia would appear to have a choice between high spending and extra high spending on foreign aid.