Australia’s 2022-2023 Federal Budget, announced Tuesday, revealed the nation’s foreign aid spending will be maintained, with a scattering of temporary measures announced, including a new AU$85 million pledge to equitable vaccine access organisation COVAX.
Aid spending as a proportion of Australia’s gross national income remains the same as in recent years, at 0.2%.
Future aid, however, is estimated to reduce each year down to 0.18% by 2024.
In many ways, how Australian aid — or overseas development assistance (ODA) — will be disbursed according to last night's budget remains consistent. The pool for key programs like the Humanitarian Emergency Fund and the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS remains largely the same, as has aid to all Pacific nations.
Papua New Guinea holds onto the title as the largest Australian aid recipient.
BREAKING: Australia’s aid budget has been announced, and while we are disappointed to see no major increase in aid, Australia has pledged temporary measures to support the global recovery from #COVID19 and to deal with the humanitarian crises facing the world.#Budget2022pic.twitter.com/kBiF9K07iN— Global Citizen Australia (@GlblCtznAU) March 29, 2022
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said aid spending over the next year would focus heavily on COVID-19 response efforts, particularly to address the economic and social costs of the pandemic in the Pacific region — Australia’s closest neighbours.
"Under our Pacific Step-Up, the Government will provide a further $324.4 million to partner with our Pacific family on the regional response to COVID-19. Of this $314 million will be a temporary and targeted ODA measure,” Payne said in a statement.
Payne likewise revealed further funding to address humanitarian crises in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Experts have welcomed the new assistance to the Pacific and applauded the fact that the Australian Government has revealed it will work to increase the aid budget to the rate of inflation. Many have raised concerns, however, that the increased indexation falls short of projected increases to cost of living.
The baseline aid budget will increase to $4.089 billion, up from $4 billion in 2021-22.
"The development reversals created by COVID-19 will last over a decade. Our Pacific relationships are not temporary — and our funding model needs to reflect this,” Marc Purcell, the CEO of the Australian Council for International Development — the nation’s peak body for international development NGOs — said in a media release. “Temporary measures and ‘base’ assistance are confusing our long-term intentions and relationships in the region. This outdated framing needs to be dropped.”
Global Citizen Oceania Regional Director Sarah Meredith echoed Purcell’s comments.
"Now is not the time to sit idle in the pursuit of defeating poverty and addressing climate change,” she said. “Australia should be boldly increasing aid and taking climate action. We didn’t see that in this year’s budget.”
Although foreign aid makes up less than 0.7% of all Australian spending, its effect is tremendous.
In the years following the pandemic, Australian aid has contributed largely to ensuring vulnerable Asia-Pacific nations receive timely, safe and effective vaccines. Beyond increasing access to vital health care, Australian foreign aid has advanced gender equality, helped bring quality education to millions and worked alongside communities to manage and adapt to climate change.