Responding to reports that Australia has, for the third year in a row, fallen in the global aid rankings released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“The OECD’s newly released rankings have seen Australia fall again, this time from 17 to 19 out of the 29 wealthy OECD nations that give aid. Yet we’re the 13th largest economy.
“Australia’s aid contribution fell 15.8 per cent due to cuts in our multilateral aid. This is one of the highest drops within OECD countries.
“This disheartening news comes after recent reporting that the Australian Government could be considering further future cuts to the aid budget.
“Australia’s poor performance and record low levels of aid come at a time when the Government seems hell bent on forcing company tax cuts, to a low of 25 per cent, through the parliament.
“We’re looking at the shocking possibility of our Government robbing the poor to pay the rich.
“The Australian Government’s funding cuts have already seen aid fall to its lowest levels in our country’s history, representing just 22 cents for every $100 of gross national income.
“This is well below the average of other countries and proportionately less than countries with a lower GDP than our own – including Belgium, Ireland and New Zealand.
“Behind these statistics are real people – in vulnerable communities on our doorstep and multiple humanitarian crisis around the globe – who need help from Australian aid to to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change.
“Overseas aid is a success story. Aid paid for a global vaccination campaign that virtually eradicated polio, and the mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets in sub-Saharan Africa, which halved the mortality rate from malaria and saved the lives of millions of children.
“Aid should be a priority for any government that is committed to building a safe and secure world free from poverty and inequality.
“Right now, tens of millions of people in five countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen – are at risk of starvation, with the UN calling for strong and urgent action to avert catastrophe.
“While Oxfam has welcomed Australian Government humanitarian support to a number of these crises, it has happened amidst an overall budget that continues to shrink.
“In the long-term, healthy aid budgets help make communities more resilient and lessen the impact of humanitarian crises.
“Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper released late last year also recognised that Government action was needed to promote a stable, prosperous region and encourage sustainable development.
“It’s unconscionable, then, that the Government would consider further eroding a critical lifeline to the world’s poorest.
“It’s time for the Australian Government to take its own promises on aid seriously. This means not only honouring its commitment to keep aid in line with CPI in the coming Federal Budget – but rebuilding and reinvesting in Australia’s aid program.” —