Aid Budget Cuts and What You Can Do About It
Despite a strong sector campaign, the scheduled cuts of $224 million to Australian aid went ahead in Tuesday’s budget. These cuts were fortunately not new cuts like previous years, having been scheduled nearly eighteen months ago, but were still very disappointing.
These cuts bring our aid budget to 0.23% of Australia’s Gross National Income (GNI), its lowest level ever since our program began in 1974. This means that in every $100 Australia produces, just 23c goes to aid.
We know that these cuts have significant human impact. Aid is a very small proportion of Australia’s budget but has massive reach. In 2014 alone, Australian aid helped 1.3 million children gain access to education and trained 100 000 teachers.
Here at Oaktree we know that education works. Education is the most powerful tool in the fight to end the injustice of extreme poverty. It helps individuals and communities reach their potential.
Additionally, Australia’s aid program focuses on essential healthcare initiatives, women’s empowerment, child protection and many other areas. Australia’s aid program is proudly considered a leader in disability-inclusiveness.
Less than three years ago, our aid budget was approaching record highs. We were committed to giving 0.5% of GNI to aid, closer to the movements of other developed countries and international targets.
The U.K has famously increased aid spending to 0.7% of GNI. This is in line with the target agreed to by 193 countries who signed the Sustainable Development Goals last year including Australia. The commitment by the U.K came about despite a more precarious economic situation than Australia, demonstrating the importance of political leadership on this issue. Other countries including The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg give more than 0.7%.
Twenty-two developed countries increased their aid levels last year. But here in Australia we’re now going backwards, threatening the progress Australian aid has made in our region and beyond.
Despite this, It is exciting to see ordinary Australians taking a stand and saying that this situation is not acceptable. Each week, Oaktree has been engaging hundreds of people across the country, hearing their stories for why they believe Australia needs to step up and be a leader on the issue of aid.
It is also exciting to see more and more in the media about the importance of Australia funding a robust and effective aid program that we can be proud of. There are no more cuts scheduled and Australians are mobilised. The tide is turning.
This year - and this election - is crucial. There are thousands of Australians who are extremely disappointed that the government keeps treating the aid budget like an ATM. We’ve only got two months to go, and we’re going to show our leaders that voters across the country are saying no to more cuts to life-saving aid programs.
We’re running our most powerful election campaign ever. The weekend before the election we’ll be holding the Seat Stakeout - 1000 young people camping out in marginal electorates, knocking on thousands of doors, organising creative actions, and showing voters why having a robust and effective aid program is so important.
Australian aid isn’t about charity. It’s about fairness and justice. There is so much wealth in the world that no one should be living in poverty. Australia can be part of the solution that helps break the poverty cycle.
Written by Jackson Peck
Director of Political Engagement, Oaktree.
Thumbnail image source: The Australian