The Foreign Minister’s pledge to lift Australia’s aid funding in the Pacific cannot be taken seriously while her government continues to drive down Australian development assistance spending to the lowest level in history.
Despite clear evidence of Australia’s diminishing influence in our region the Turnbull Government continues on its disastrous path of cuts to aid which can only further weaken Australia’s standing.
Under Minister Bishop’s watch more than $11 billion has been cut from Australia’s aid program.
Just last month the May Budget cut another $140 million from our aid spending, driving Australian development assistance spending down to the lowest level in history – just 22 cents in every $100 of our national income will be spent on foreign aid in 2018-19.
Pacific island states have felt the impact of these cuts, and will increasingly turn to others to fill the gap left by Australia, further eroding our influence in the region.
The Foreign Minister has now acknowledged Australia does need to demonstrate greater leadership in the Pacific and play our part in ensuring a stable and prosperous region.
Yet the Turnbull Government’s own budget figures forecast our international development program will fall even further to just 0.19 per cent of GNI over the forward estimates.
Australia has a deep interest in contributing to global poverty alleviation, and our international development program supports security and stability in our region.
The Foreign Minister’s own DFAT White Paper, released late last year declares “Australia’s overseas aid program aims to help developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development in line with Australia’s national interest.”
The Turnbull Government’s cuts to development assistance are already a source of international embarrassment for Australia, and are at odds with the generous spirit of the Australian people.
A Shorten Labor Government will contribute more to international development assistance than the current Government. And we will ensure more of it gets to the people who it is meant to be assisting.
Labor has repeatedly urged the Turnbull Government to return to a properly bipartisan approach to international development assistance.
Instead of continuing to prioritise massive tax cuts for big business, Julie Bishop must now put her words into action by joining Labor in committing to lifting Australia’s embarrassingly low level of international development assistance.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.