As the Morrison Government announces unprecedented spending on defence, Save the Children is warning that a commensurate increase in foreign aid is needed and in the national interest.
Australia’s foreign aid budget has been repeatedly slashed in recent years, and in 2019-20 was barely one tenth the size of the defence budget.
Australia did not make a commitment at last night’s Syria pledging conference, which saw other donors pledge a combined $11 billion to support the humanitarian response. Australia also failed to make a commitment at last month’s pledging conference for Yemen, the biggest humanitarian crisis on the planet.
Save the Children Australia Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said:
“As Australia responds to perceived strategic threats in our region, we can’t ignore the immediate threat to people’s lives and livelihoods. The decline in Australia’s aid budget is as stark as the increase to defence.
“We need to support our regional neighbours right now, as well as those facing the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. Not only is it in our national interest but it’s the right thing to do.
“The Prime Minister has noted that a post COVID world will be ‘poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly’. It won’t serve Australia’s interest to respond to the danger and disorder without addressing those who will inevitably become poorer.
“As defence spending increases, the Australian Government must also increase its aid expenditure to address these urgent needs, in our region and beyond.”
In addition to recent foreign aid cuts, the government has also redirected a further $100 million in aid funding to the regional COVID-19 response.
“While we commend the support the Government is providing to the Pacific through the aid program, as well as its recent $300 million pledge to Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, and ongoing support for the Rohingya crisis response, the size of the overall pie means there simply isn’t enough to go around,” Mr Tinkler said.
“The foreign aid budget cannot continue to be sliced and diced depending on the order of the day. It needs to be ringfenced alongside defence as we all adjust to the changing world.”