Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers unveiled Labor's first federal budget Tuesday.
Chalmers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese — elected in May — have now laid out their party’s biggest priorities and goals for the coming year, with emphasis given to climate change, employment, education, child care, mental health, housing and international affairs.
The much-anticipated budget is fundamentally about the government delivering on its election promises, with many in the poverty and inequality eradication space holding out hope that Labor would specifically deliver on pledges to increase Australia’s aid budget.
It’s an understatement to say that there is quite a bit in the 1,000-page report to be deciphered.
So, here’s a breakdown of the top three budget commitments that Global Citizens will like — and two of what we consider to be the biggest missed opportunities.
1. Increased Investment for International Development
The Australian Government has delivered on its promises to inject more than AU$1.4 billion in new funding for Official Development Assistance, a pool of money dedicated to helping the most vulnerable people in the world. Most notably, an additional $900 million will be provided to Pacific nations, while $470 million will be delivered to South East Asia.
The investments will be disbursed over a four-year period.
"This funding boost is an indication that the Labor Government takes seriously the message that Australia’s aid program has a role to play in helping our neighbours tackle the complexities of the pandemic and economic woes,” said CEO of the Australian Council for International Development Marc Purcell.
Kiribati has received the largest funding increase, at 32%, while Samoa will collect a 22% rise.
2. 80% Gender Equality Target Restored
Australia has reintroduced an 80% target to ensure its development investments effectively address gender inequality.
"In 2022–23, Australia will provide $65 million through the Indo-Pacific Gender Equality Fund to support regional partners to advance women and girls’ economic empowerment and leadership, and prevent gender-based violence,” the government explains in a budget summary statement. “This support will be an essential part of community-led recovery from COVID-19.”
3. New Climate Change Adaptation Funding
New aid investments include additional support, especially for Australia’s Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours, to help prepare for and respond to the effects of climate change. A new Climate and Infrastructure Partnership with Indonesia will see Australia deliver $200 million over the next four years on “climate and infrastructure financing, disaster mitigation and renewable energy.”
1. Aid Spending Is Still Way Too Low
Despite increased investment, Australia’s $4.651 billion aid budget for 2022-23 is still way too low to help end extreme poverty globally. The increase won’t be enough to keep up with inflation, with the budget capped at an indexation of 2.5% per year.
"Adjusting for inflation, aid is set to fall every year from 2022-23 to 2025-26. The total reduction by 2025-26 is 5%, which is a lot less than the 14% cut under the [former] Coalition’s March budget (using the latest inflation numbers), but nevertheless a real cut,” explained Australia’s Devpolicy Blog.
Aid spending as a percentage of Australia’s gross national income will remain at 0.20% over the next two years.
This is way below the United Nation’s calculation of what wealthy nations like Australia should spend. The organisation says if the world is to actively work toward ending extreme poverty, countries like Australia must dedicate 0.7% of its total national income to aid.
Australia ranks 21 out of 29 OECD countries for its aid generosity.
2. No New Funding to Fight Famine
The Government has failed to deliver any additional investments to address food security and famine, despite being one of the most urgent global priorities. A coalition of Australian development sector partners had called on Labor to urgently invest $150 million to a Famine Prevention Package to address hunger in the worst-hit hotspots: the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
Requests for a long-term targeted Food Security Strategy were likewise ignored.
Nearly 50 million people in 45 countries are now on the brink of famine.
You can call on Australia to invest in global food security here.