The percentage of Australians who want to see the federal government increase funding for developing countries has risen by 5% since 2019, with the nation’s humanitarian sector using the new polling to call for an urgent increase in foreign aid.
The poll of just over 1,000 voters revealed 57% support expanding the aid budget, against 52% in 2019.
Just over 50% agree that Australia should increase its aid spending because citizens will “never be safe from diseases like COVID-19” while countries in the region experience high infection rates from new variants, while 55% concur because the pandemic has created greater inequality throughout the Pacific.
End COVID For All, the coalition of organisations behind the foreign aid push, say the one-off $300 million COVID-19 recovery package pledged to help the Pacific and Timor-Leste in 2020 will expire next year. Without immediate increases to the aid budget, the experts fear decades of progress against extreme poverty could be erased.
Despite “looking and feeling” just like aid, the pandemic package officially sat alongside last year’s $4 billion aid budget.
As a proportion of Australia’s gross national income, aid spending remains the same in 2021 as in recent years, at 0.21%.
The United Nations calls on all developing countries to pledge close to 0.7%.
.@GlblCtznAU is THRILLED to be long time partners of the #EndCOVIDForAll campaign and to join calls for further aid to address growing poverty. @ScottMorrisonMP, @MarisePayne, will you help? #auspolhttps://t.co/ivzKItM0ffpic.twitter.com/YcB05GvCVe— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) November 15, 2021
While the temporary and targeted measures were effective, End COVID For All say the same rationale must apply today.
"If there was ever a time to step-up assistance for our Pacific family, it is now. The Pacific faces a potential lost decade in education, health and livelihoods due to the economic devastation caused by the pandemic,” End COVID For All spokesperson Marc Purcell said. “With huge losses in sectors like tourism, Pacific Island governments don’t have the resources to put into their economies or run deficit budgets.”
The group of health and aid organisations, of which Global Citizen is a partner, is now asking the Australian Government to commit $50 million to help tackle vaccine hesitancy in the region, expand the pandemic package to 2025 and allocate an additional $420 million to help purchase vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for low and middle-income countries.
Australia should also share at least 20 million domestically produced vaccines throughout the region, the experts state.
Just over 1% of citizens in Papua New Guinea, and 5% in the Solomon Islands, have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Calls for further aid to be provided to Afghanistan and Myanmar have also been raised.
In May, a similar poll showed 83% of Australians believe Australia should help the Pacific pay for COVID-19 vaccines.