Two days before the Federal election, the Coalition announced it would not go ahead with the $4.5 billion increases that had been planned for the aid budget over the next three years. Treasurer elect, Joe Hockey, said that
We can’t continue to fund a massive increase in foreign aid at the expense of investment in the Australian economy. So we have to cut the growth in foreign aid, to fund Australian infrastructure because the stronger the Australian economy, the more generous we can be in future.
Seriously? Here are the facts.
1. We are richer than ever.
Check out these two charts.
Australia has experienced almost continual economic growth for the last fifty years. It’s left us in a situation where even low income households have relatively high levels of disposable income. If we’re not in a situation now to be generous, we never have been and never will be. Seriously Joe, how much is enough?!
2. We can afford infrastructure and aid
Here’s the Federal Government spend for the current financial year.
Aid is only a tiny fraction of our spend. Here’s an idea. The Coalition has flagged that over the next decade it will raise defence spending from the current 1.57% GDP to 2% GDP. How about we take half of that increase and devote it to aid, which gives life to people, instead of weapons, which are designed to kill people?
3. We are international laggards on aid
Here’s the latest figures on aid as a proportion of national income.
4. We made a promise
In September 2000, Prime Minister Howard, stood shoulder to shoulder with world leaders and declared we would spare no effort to free our “fellow human beings from the abject and dehumanising condition of extreme poverty”. To put legs on this a bipartisan commitment to take the aid budget to 0.5% of national income by 2015 followed. The Labor Government pushed the date back a couple of years. The Coalition have abandoned it. Good on you Joe, you have traded the opportunity to end extreme poverty for millions for a few extra kilometres of bitumen.
The reality is that aid works. It sees kids going to school, families getting sufficient nutrition, adults finding well paid employment, sick people having access to medical treatment, and more. To abandon our fellow human beings to build even more infrastructure in one of the world’s richest economies is sorry testament to how greedy we’ve become.