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Australia Is Slamming The Door In The Face Of Global Poverty

Our commitment to foreign aid says we want to be part of the club but aren’t willing to chip-in when the clubhouse roof starts leaking.

08/05/2017 3:45 PM AEST | Updated 08/05/2017 3:49 PM AEST
Cameron Spencer via Getty Images
"When delivering the Federal Budget on Tuesday, it’s worth the Treasurer Scott Morrison knowing some facts that define the confronting scale of global challenges we face."

When delivering the Federal Budget on Tuesday, it's worth the Treasurer Scott Morrison knowing some facts that define the confronting scale of global challenges we face.

As he hits his stride on housing affordability, the amount of people around the world who have been driven from their own homes by war and conflict will be equivalent to three times Australia's population.

As Mr Morrison begins a crescendo towards the importance of a company tax cut, over 20 million people across Kenya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia face starvation. And from start to finish on Budget day, approximately 800 women will die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth around the world.

The foreign aid budget has been cut consecutively over the past four years, dropping almost 30 percent during that time.

Confronted by common global challenges, Australia has reached a fork in the road in how we respond. For people who are struggling to survive or live a life of dignity, business as usual is not sustainable. With a Federal Budget and a new white paper on foreign policy to come later in the year, the Australian Government has an opportunity to take the high road on our international role and commitments, backed by the values of the Australian people. Values of a fair-go and compassion for those in need which bind our own society and would carry us well in the world.

In signing up to collective global agreements, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, the Government has signalled that it wants to play its part in solving global challenges. But its commitment to foreign aid tells another story. It seems we want to be part of the club, but aren't willing to chip-in when the clubhouse roof starts leaking.

The foreign aid budget has been cut consecutively over the past four years, dropping almost 30 percent during that time. This Budget is set to be a response from a Government that is keeping its fingers in its ears and its eyes shut to the scale of human crises.

The UK has put its commitment to helping others overseas in legislation and set its aid spend at 7 pence out of every 10 pounds. The Conservative party holding that position has just made massive electoral gains across the country. Norway, a country with a population smaller than Victoria, gives more aid and development assistance than Australia, and we are on course to sink to new lows compared to our national income. With a foreign aid spend of 23 cents in every $100, we have dropped any pretence that we are willing to pull our weight in tackling global challenges.

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People across Australia believe in a national policy that helps people in need and hold a long tradition for helping those doing-it-tough. We are the nation of a fair-go. There remain vast discrepancies of opportunity around the world and, like our national policy, providing foreign aid provides a commitment to social justice. We must not forget that the conditions in which Australians flourish are the same as every other person around the world.

In the global context, where the US administration is cutting foreign aid and retreating from tackling global challenges, how Australia responds matters now more than ever. We believe -- from seeing the compassion and generosity of the people of Australia and the growing support for our members -- the Australian Government should hold an approach which enables us to meet the growing human need caused by humanitarian crises and should contribute its fair-share in tackling common challenges which are impeding human development.

When Scott Morrison delivers the Budget, it reflects who we are as a nation and who we want to be in the world. There is much to be proud of, but it's time for the Government to revisit its position on aid; to ask whether it's meeting its own international aspirations and giving a fair-go to the growing number of people around the world struggling to meet the most basic human needs.

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