After seeing former Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s brief, but torturous, tenure in office finally come to an end, there is great potential to improve Australia’s international image by reversing his scramble to defund the international aid program. During his time in office, Abbot was able to dissolve AusAID and make extreme cuts to the aid budget, which placed Australia very near to the bottom of nations, in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), that give to international aid. This is far below Australia’s “fair share” and doesn’t reflect the generous attitudes of most Australian’s.
The current trajectory of Australian aid, as revealed in the 2015 budget, will continue to be on the decline, with a further estimated cut of $224 million dollars. The graph below shows aid expenditure before Abbott’s cuts in 2014-15, Australia’s current aid contributions in 2015-16, followed by estimations of minor inflation-based growth into future years. The next expected cut may seem relatively insubstantial, but by comparison it is “more than the entire Australian country-allocated aid budget for all the countries of Polynesia and Micronesia combined (DevPolicyBlog).”
It is a wonder why Australia, under the current leadership of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, would make this next cut of $224 million dollars. It represents only 0.05 per cent of total federal spending, which is less than 5 cents out of every hundred dollars the federal government spends. While this amount will only represent a very small impact on Australia’s fiscal health, it will mean that thousands of women, men and children won’t have access to life-saving health treatments, education opportunities that would benefit recipient country economies and several other vital life-saving services. Regional instability and violence resulting from extreme vulnerability should also be considered.
Unfortunately Abbot’s leadership appears to have degraded foreign views of Australia as a tight fisted and relatively unkind nation. I don’t think this is a true reflection of most Australian’s. There is an opportunity here for Prime Minister Turnbull to prevent this next cut and even increase Australia’s aid expenditure. Doing so may just help to improve Australia’s international image by demonstrating that we do want to “give a fair go” to those who have been subject to extreme vulnerability and premature death by circumstances often outside of their own control.
The graph and these reflections generally relate to an article I read on DevPolicyBlog.