Committee support for major increase in foreign aid reinforces budget folly

The Committee, reviewing the strategic effectiveness of Australia’s aid program in the Indo-Pacific, said the Government should set a timeframe of no more than five years to increase aid funding to at least 0.5 per cent of gross national income, and no more than 10 years to increase aid to at least 0.7 per cent. Importantly it also recommended that these levels of aid be legislated to ensure certainty and consistency.

This is in stark contrast to Tuesday’s Federal Budget, which put Australia’s aid contributions on course to fall to 0.21 per cent of GNI in 2019-20, and as low as 0.19 per cent in 2021-22.

“The recommendation of the committee – chaired by Liberal MP Chris Crewther – to grow aid in line with global standards adopted by the UN is to be commended,” said Save the Children Director of Policy and International Programs, Mat Tinkler said.

“It is a recommendation that would deliver life-saving aid to millions of children affected by poverty, conflict and disasters, while growing Australia’s standing and influence in the region and demonstrating the true generosity of Australians.

“The aid budget cuts, on the other hand, will harm the life chances of children and families around the world, especially in our region, and are at odds with Australian values. With the federal election looming, we urge all parties to follow the Committee’s recommendations regarding aid, and ensure Australia is a generous neighbour once more.”

In particular, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade recommended the Government introduce a Digital Economy Aid Investment Strategy, as proposed by Save the Children and Inclusiv Ventures, which are involved in a for-profit joint venture.

“It is really pleasing to see our recommendation being endorsed as it would help create new, sustainable ways of reaching the most vulnerable children and families in our region, many of whom live in hard to reach areas such as the highlands of PNG,” Mr Tinkler said.

“There are tremendous opportunities to work more closely with the private sector to target development outcomes, to improve access to vital services like health, education and finance. We look forward to working with the government to ensure that the important recommendations of this Committee are implemented.”

Save the Children’s Submission ‘Reform for Results: Reforming Australia’s overseas aid program to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness’ is available here.

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