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Australia’s aid program is set to be reexamined and refreshed under a new review, the government revealed Tuesday. 

The new policy for Australia’s AUD $4 billion-a-year aid budget will center around ensuring the nation is positioned to support a “secure, stable, prosperous, and resilient Indo-Pacific.”

Dennis Richardson, a former diplomat and senior bureaucrat, has been appointed to lead the consultation process and head the review’s expert panel. 

The review is expected to specify what Australia’s aid spending seeks to accomplish and reassess which countries receive aid — specifically how much they receive and which in-country projects obtain funding.

According to Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, “economic infrastructure and connectivity” will be emphasized.

"The new policy will reflect Australian values, including our commitment to human dignity, gender equality, and inclusive development, and our commitment to poverty reduction and helping those impacted by natural and man-made disasters,” she said in a press release. 

Meanwhile, Alex Hawke, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, revealed the new policy would draw on private sector investment and expand programs to “recruit Pacific workers to fill workforce shortages in regional Australia.”  

"Building on the Foreign Policy White Paper 2017, the new policy will reflect the government’s increased emphasis on strategic and economic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and our deepened commitment to our Pacific neighbors through the Step-up,” he said.

The review comes at a time when Australia’s aid budget is at a record low. 

The nation’s aid budget currently sits at 0.21% of gross national income — a figure that, in real terms, is down 27% from 2013 and substantially below the United Nations’ recommendation for aid spending at 0.7%. 

The amount Australia spends on aid is not expected to be examined during the review. 

News of the foreign aid review comes on the same day as the release of new data from the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

The national poll revealed 3 in 5 — or 59% of respondents — believed Australia’s international aid to developing countries should primarily serve the poorest people. One-third said aid should primarily serve Australia’s interests, while 7% said they were unsure.

CEO of ACFID Marc Purcell said prioritizing the poorest and most marginalized people “is the right thing to do.” 

"The Australian people have a long tradition of helping the most vulnerable and giving everyone a fair go. This should be mirrored in the purpose of the government’s new policy,” he said in a media release. “Setting a target for our assistance to reach the bottom 40% of people by income in poor countries would allow the government to assess and communicate impact against a measurement the public wants to see.”

"By taking this approach, we can help build a more open, peaceful, and stable region from the ground-up,” he added.

All Australians have been encouraged to submit to the review. Submissions of no more than five pages will be accepted until the end of January 2020 and can be submitted via email: development.submissions@dfat.gov.au


Defeat Poverty

Australia’s International Aid Budget Will Be Reprioritized Under Landmark Review

By Madeleine Keck