POLITICS

Greens Want $8 Billion Extra By 2020 For Australia's Foreign Aid

By comparison, we're spending $32 billion this year alone on defence.

14/06/2016 12:19 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Fairfax Media
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has announced the party's aid policy.

The Greens have unveiled an ambitious target for boosting Australia's foreign aid, saying they would like to see an extra $8 billion added to the aid budget by 2020.

The party said it would introduce a bill into parliament as soon as it resumes after the July 2 election, to seek an increase in foreign aid to 0.7 percent of Australian's gross national income (GNI) within 10 years. That would see an extra $7.97 billion poured into foreign aid coffers, above the forward estimates, by 2020.

To compare that to current government spending, the government recently announced a doubling of the annual defence budget from $32 billion to $59 billion by 2025, with a total of $448 billion to be spent over that 10-year period; while the government has committed to $48 billion in company tax cuts.

Greens spokesperson for overseas aid Senator Lee Rhiannon said Australia's aid was currently at just 0.23 percent of GNI, "the lowest it has ever been since funding records began over 50 years ago".

"Our overseas aid budget has become so entangled with the military, economic and political objectives of the government in power that we have lost sight of the reason we have an aid program in the first instance," Rhiannon said.

"Successive Coalition and Labor governments have chosen to strip our aid budget to the bone. The recent $224 million cut from the aid budget was just the latest blow. Under the Turnbull-Abbott government a total of $11 billion has been ripped from the aid budget."

Rhiannon said the Parliamentary Budget Office has costed the boost from 0.23 percent of GNI to 0.7 percent at a total of $7.97 billion over the forward estimates by 2020, and a total $63.5 billion by the end of 2026.

"We are one of the world's wealthiest nations and we can afford to make an aid commitment of at least 0.7 percent of GNI," Rhiannon said.

Under the Greens proposal, an independent department would be created to oversee aid delivery, "including enduring aid programs are not used as a means to subsidise Australian business", and have a particular focus on helping developing nations prepare for climate change, as well as sexual health.

Fairfax Media
Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop inspects aid supplies on a RAAF plane bound for Fiji after Tropical Cyclone Winston

"We will target assistance, particularly in the Asia Pacific, for climate change adaptation measures so communities can remain in their own countries and maintain cultural cohesion," the Greens' aid policy outlines.

"Our commitment will also see a greater focus on strengthening health systems to address sexual and reproductive health, and the prevention and consequences of HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases."

Labor has committed to reversing recent cuts to the foreign aid budget, but has not outlined a policy nearly as generous as the Greens.

The aid sector has welcomed the Greens policy.

"We welcome the Australian Greens policy of increasing aid to 0.7 percent of GNI by 2025-26 and urge them to implement the policy if they are in a position to do so, " said Director of the Campaign for Australian Aid, Tony Milne.

"Labor and the Greens have now both announced policies to increase aid. Your move
Coalition."

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