Last night, Treasurer Joe Hockey handed down a Federal Budget that cut $1 billion from Australia's aid program.
In his Federal Budget speech, The Treasurer, Joe Hockey claimed that ‘this budget is responsible, measured and fair’. But there doesn’t seem to be anything very fair for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people in the Federal Government’s decision to go ahead with a $1 billion cut to the 2015 Australian aid budget.
More than 10,000 Australians have emailed Mr Hockey in the past few weeks asking for a fair allocation of funding for Australian aid – but instead last night, the Government announced the 2015 Budget would implement 40 per cent cuts in our aid to countries throughout Asia, including Indonesia (except Nepal and Cambodia) and a staggering 70 per cent cut to aid to Africa. While aid in the Pacific was protected, Australia’s immediate region will bear the lion’s share of the devastating cuts in Asia.
It seems incredible that we should be willing to undermine the stability and security of our own region, hitting the area of closest and most immediate need and in doing so undermining our collective chances for a peaceful and prosperous future.
If we want to live in a stable world then we need to invest not only in relieving the suffering of the world’s poor but also investing in the potential of coming generations around the world.
The decision by the Government to effectively end aid to Africa, one of the neediest regions in the world, is equally devastating. The Abbott-Hockey Government has destroyed our aid program to Africa – now the only Australian funds going to Africa will be in the form of scholarships.
So many countries in Africa still have such massive and immediate needs in basic health and primary education – I don’t understand how we can decide that it is OK to shrink our aid to a tertiary scholarship program?
Over the life of this Government, Australian aid to Sub-Saharan Africa will have dropped from close to $225m a year in 2013-14 to $31.8m next financial year.
It is a great relief that the most effective form of aid, that is aid delivered through NGOs has not been smashed like the rest of the budget. We welcome the decision to limit the reduction in funding of the Australian NGO Cooperation Partnership to 5 per cent. Given the severity of the cuts to the overall budget, we appreciate this vote of confidence in NGOs’ ability to deliver aid efficiently and effectively.
But even the 5 per cent cut has already forced World Vision to cut life-changing projects around the world from an education project for children in South Sudan to a HIV mitigation project in India.
It’s welcome to hear about a $50 million competitive Gender Equality Fund for the Indo-Pacific region, but it won’t make up for the devastating impact massive across-the-board cuts to aid in Asia will have on women and children.
It is hard to think about gender equality and economic empowerment when you are dying in childbirth in a remote village without access to adequate health care or your child is perishing in your arms because of an untreated case of diarrhoea.
And with a second earthquake in Nepal just weeks after the 7.8 magnitude quake killed over 8000 people, it’s helpful that cuts to crucial humanitarian and emergency funding have been limited to 3 per cent. When the planet is experiencing increasing natural disasters like we have just witnessed in Vanuatu and Nepal, the ongoing crisis in Syria, and continuing humanitarian issues in Africa, the pressure on international humanitarian efforts has not abated.
Do you think the 2015 Federal Budget is fair? Let us know at isthebudgetfair.com