Australia's foreign aid spending at lowest level in eight years
Australia’s spending on foreign aid is at an eight-year low, with planned increases by 2020 still less than spending by the Rudd and Gillard governments more than a decade earlier.
Data released by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this month shows Australia’s $3.82 billion official development assistance budget for 2016-17 is closest to spending levels in 2009-10, totalling $3.86 billion.
Commitments over the four-year forward estimates period will peak at $4.1 billion, meaning Australia will spend less on foreign aid in 2020 than it did in 2010-11, when the budget reached $4.3 billion.
Currently more than 90 per cent of Australia’s foreign aid commitments go to countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including more than $558 million to Papua New Guinea, $365 million to Indonesia and $162 million to the Solomon Islands.
More than $180 million in spending in 2016-17 will go to Africa and the Middle East, with cross-country programs, contributions to international organisations and humanitarian and emergency assistance making up the rest of aid spending.
The 2016 federal budget saw a further $224 million in cuts from foreign aid, following the Abbott government’s slashing of $1 billion in 2015 – the largest ever single year reduction.
Planned spending in 2017-18 will grow to $3.9 billion before reaching $4.01 billion in 2018-19, the department told a Senate estimates committee.
Before coming to government in 2007, Labor committed to a target of 0.5 per cent of national income for foreign aid by 2015–16, but the plan was delayed in 2012 and 2013.
The Gillard government’s final budget statement included aid commitments of 0.37 per cent of national income.
World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello said Australia’s aid spending should be a source of national embarrassment amid the country’s ongoing involvement in international military operations overseas.
Mr Costello said he was concerned Donald Trump’s rise to the US presidency and growing nationalist sentiments around the world would see further cuts to aid as the federal government works to repair the budget.
“The ill winds blowing globally are turning us inwards and they have muted what should be outrage, with Australians saying ‘we’ll just look after ourselves’,” he said.
“Australia’s performance would see Bob Menzies turning in his grave. Aid was at its highest under Menzies, at 0.5 per cent… when per capita income was much lower.”
Praising countries including Britain, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands for meeting the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of national income for foreign aid, Mr Costello said the world’s poor were being ignored on Australia’s doorstep.
“We’ve lost perspective. We’re still the third richest nation per capita on the earth and we’ve cut aid, which is really a measure of our sense of perspective,” he said.
The story Australia’s foreign aid spending at lowest level in eight years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.