The Abbott Government’s second Budget has locked in a record $11.3 billion cut to foreign aid, hitting some of the world’s poorest countries hard, and putting regional security at risk.
This is hugely embarrassing for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who promised before the election to grow the aid budget, but now presides over the weakest foreign aid program in Australian history.
Many countries have suffered cuts, with numerous critical programs facing the axe – including child protection, domestic violence, HIV prevention, health, education, and clean water projects.
Some of our close neighbours, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar have seen their aid cut by 40 per cent. That’s despite the fact Julie Bishop promised our region would be a priority.
Sub-Saharan African countries have been very badly affected, suffering a horrific 70 per cent cut.
But one of the biggest cuts was to the Middle East and North Africa region, which was slashed by a staggering 82 per cent.
There are also cuts of 40 per cent to significant international programs including UNICEF, the UN Development Programme, the UN Program on HIV and AIDS, and the World Health Organisation.
In response to the cuts that fall in the next financial year (2015-16) alone, a number of charities have been forced to axe important programs in at least two dozen countries. World Vision estimates that 1.3 million people will miss out on essential services - and that’s just for their own programs, in just the next year. Because the Abbott Government’s aid cuts run so deep, it means there will be many more years of cuts to come, more programs will go, and millions more people will miss out.
Under the Abbott Government, by 2016, Australia will spend just 22 cents in every $100 of our national income on foreign aid – the lowest ever. Over the next decade, that is set to decline further, to 18 cents in every $100.
The Abbott Government’s aid cuts are hurting the most vulnerable, and hurting Australia’s international reputation as a good global citizen.
But the cuts are also putting regional security at risk.
Leading think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), says that reducing deprivation and inequality in our region delivers significant strategic benefits to Australia.
ASPI warns that the Abbott Government’s cuts to foreign aid could lead to civil unrest in nearby states.
Ms Bishop has failed to deliver on her promises, and has failed make the case for Australia’s interests in Cabinet.
It’s clear these cuts are all about a short term Budget fix to save Tony Abbott’s job, and nothing about doing what’s right for Australia’s future.