POLITICS

'Concrete Plan' Needed On Foreign Aid: Care Australia

Not-for-profits lobby government on issue ahead of July election.

21/05/2016 1:32 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Australia is being urged to boost its foreign aid budget.

Labor has vowed to restore the Coalition's $224 million cuts to the foreign aid program if elected on July 2.

The Opposition also promised an additional $450 million over three years to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as $40 million a year to assist NGOs to provide frontline services.

Tanya Plibersek, shadow minister for foreign affairs, said Labor is determined to restore the funding cuts.

"Since coming to government in 2013, the Liberals have gutted Australia's aid program. It is now the weakest in history," Plibersek said.

"Sadly, the Liberals' cuts have been so deep that it is impossible to fix the aid program quickly."

Charities want foreign aid to be front and centre in the election campaign agenda, saying the nation needs to do more to alleviate suffering overseas.

Care Australia chief executive Julia Newton-Howes on Saturday backed Labor's commitment to increase the foreign aid budget, if elected on July 2.

"Pledging to restore the $224 million cut from the Australian aid budget this year is a great first step from Labor," she said.

"We need to see a concrete plan of how and when the Australian aid budget will be restored to internationally accepted levels."

The Coalition government has cut more than $11 billion from the aid budget since coming to office, Fairfax Media reports.

Church leaders last month united to call on Treasurer Scott Morrison to stop Australia's foreign aid from slumping to new lows.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke said the people who benefited from foreign aid struggled for food, water, shelter, work, education.

"I know the power that aid has to save lives -- I have seen the terrible, deadly consequences of when there isn't enough to go around," she said.

"Recent years have seen cut after devastating cut, resulting in the scaling back of life-changing work, including in our own region, where the majority of the world's poorest live.

"There is no poor country or region that has been left unscathed by cuts to the Australian aid budget. The aid budget is not an ATM -- it is a lifeline for our very poorest neighbours."

Szoke described Labor's announcement as the first step to boosting the aid program.

"This is as a start to the rebuilding of our aid program so it can continue to help families earn enough to survive and be supported to rebuild their lives after disaster strikes."

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