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Standing up for Australian Aid

Just hours ago at a conference today in Canberra, Australia, Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Foreign Minister announced that if Labor are elected at next year's Federal Election, they'd make some significant changes to Australia's aid program.

Here at Global Citizen, and our parent entity, Global Poverty Project, we're big fans of Australian Aid, and proud members of the Campaign for Australian Aid, so we wanted to share the news with you, and unpack a little about what it means.

What Labor are promising

  • ●  Increase funding to the very successful Australian Non-Government Organisation Cooperation Program by $30 million AUD per year. This program is delivered by Australia’s trusted Aid and Development NGOs and offers Australians extraordinary value for money. It currently delivers 20% of Australian aid’s outcomes but only receives 2.7% of the aid budget. 
  • ●  Ensure more transparency and accountability in Australian aid by restoring the ‘blue book’, which provides Australians with a precise breakdown of how their Australian aid is spent every year.
  • ●  Make Australian aid more effective in achieving the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development, recently agreed to by world leaders at the United Nations, by investing $10 million AUD into planning, evaluation and research.
  • ●  Pass new legislation that once and for all, locks in the definition and purpose of Australian aid to be the alleviation of poverty. 

The Campaign for Australian Aid welcomed the move, with Executive Officer Tony Milne saying:

“We welcome Labor’s promise to legislate Australian Aid’s primary purpose to be the alleviation of poverty, particularly in light of the Coalition’s record-breaking $11.3 billion [AUD] in total aid cuts. It’s a positive step towards repairing Australian aid and building a more prosperous future for our country, our region and the rest of the world.”

What it means

We agree that this is a welcome move - but we shouldn't get too excited yet.

Australian Aid has been a political football for the last four years.  It was the Labor Party who began to chip away at the Australian Aid program well before the Coalition came into power. From 2007 onwards, Australia had a bi-partisan consensus around a transparent, effective and poverty-focused aid program that was on-track to get the nation to aid levels of 0.5% of GNI by 2015.

Rather than ensuring that the world's poor were protected through the financial crisis, both parties raided the aid budget, undermining Australia's claim to represent a fair go and damaged the nation’s international reputation in the process.

This damage - both to the global effort to end extreme poverty by 2030, and to Australia’s place in the world as Australians and global citizens - won't be repaired until all of the aid cuts are reversed.

The world - including Australia - has just signed up to the Global Goals, an ambitious agenda to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and protect the environment. I was there, watching just weeks ago in New York as both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Shadow Minister Tanya Plibersek said that Australia would play its role in achieving the goals.

Well, here's their first chance. Let's go further than one party trying to win back the support of NGOs by offering them back a tiny slice of what's been taken away from the world's poor.

Let's call on both parties to stand up for Australian aid, and outline a path to get Australia’s aid budget back to the levels that are really needed.

Both sides of politics like to say that we can't afford to be more generous, but that's just not true. Italy and Germany - both countries struggling with Europe's sluggish economy and strained by hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria - have made significant increases to their aid budgets this year.

Australia was a leader on the international stage, and Australians still like to think of themselves as such. So as we head towards an election next year, let's show that aid isn't something for Labor or Liberal alone, but something for all Australians. 

What next?

Join us and the Campaign for Australian Aid in writing to our new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and your local MP to ask them to stand up for Australian Aid.

Write now to ask that they stop cutting Australian aid, and start investing in a more prosperous future for Australians, for our region and for a world free from poverty.