The ABC program Q&A is known for some fiery debate among its panellists and this week’s episode did not disappoint. One of the hot topics on the table was Australian Aid.

Panellists included former prime minister of Denmark and Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Along with Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney and The Australian's editor Paul Kelly.

When pushed to give her views on Australia’s aid program, Thorning-Schmidt commented, "The only thing I can say is when your development is at an all-time low, which it is right now, it feels like Australia is not taking its place in the world."

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Thorning-Schmidt describes Australia’s history as welcoming, generous and compassionate. Of Australia’s aid program she commends it’s effort to save lives, reduce poverty and resettle refugees.

However she goes on to point out Australia’s shortcomings. Currently Australia’s aid budget is at an all time low and since 2011 has been cut by over $11 billion. That’s just 0.22 per cent of Australia's gross national income despite previous governments committing to 0.5 per cent of GNI.

As reported by The Age, “The United Kingdom and Denmark are two of only six countries to meet the 0.7 per cent of GNI commitment.”

In another devastating cut for the world’s poor, Australia halved its pledged contribution to Global Partnership for Education. Ultimately, Thorning-Schmidt believes Australia should be doing more to increase it’s aid contribution and invest in the Asia Pacific region.

She stated, “In short, the world needs Australia, and Australia needs the world. There is no better illustration of the values of a nation than how it treats those most in need.”

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So what do everyday Australian’s think about their country’s commitment to aid?

In a recent survey by The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA), who collect data on Australians opinions, attitudes and beliefs, everyday Aussies were asked to give their thoughts on Australian aid.

Our friends at Campaign for Australian Aid have chosen the humble pavlova and meat pie -  true iconic Aussie delights -  to represent Australians attitudes to overseas aid.

The results may surprise you.

Out of the  91% of people who support Australian Aid, 71% support our aid program simply because it’s just the right thing to do to help the poor.

Only 29% of people surveyed want Australia to benefit from aid in some commercial or other strategic way.

So it seems Aussies are a pretty empathetic and generous bunch.

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Thorning-Schmidt finished her time on the Q&A panel on a positive note, saying, "The only thing I want to say at the end of the program, is let's not give up. The most important thing for all of us is we can make a difference if we work together."

So do you agree with the population who were surveyed and with Thorning-Schmidt? Should Australia be doing more to step up to the world stage and contribute more to overseas aid?


Defeat Poverty

Former Prime Minister of Denmark Says Australia Should Give More Aid

By Marnie Cunningham