Retreating From The World Is Wrong And Dangerous

Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson walk into a bar...

28/09/2016 5:16 AM AEST | Updated 28/09/2016 5:16 AM AEST
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Some people feel threatened by rapid change.

Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson walk into a bar... I'd like to finish that with a funny punchline, but the steady drumbeat of nationalism and nativism is no joke.

We should be weary of politicians willing to add fuel to the fire of the anger of those burned by globalisation, directing that anger towards people or communities who are different. We should also be weary of how the economic elite has created frustration and anger for those whose boats have sunk, while the economic tide has lifted the super yachts.

The Government has also been dancing to that isolationist beat by walking away from our international aid promise.

Campaign for Australian Aid

The latest OECD report on development aid shows Australia taking a dramatic tumble down the ladder on aid rankings. While the report shows that in 2015 Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) rose in 22 countries, the Australian Government's severe cuts to aid has resulted in Australia dropping from 13th to 16th out of 28 Development Assistance Committee countries.

Six countries reported lower ODA, with the largest declines in Portugal and Australia. Only six countries met the UN target to keep ODA at or above 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (GNI).

Campaign for Australian Aid

In the past year, Australia has fallen behind New Zealand, Austria and Canada. Australia was ranked 9th in 1995, and reached its highest levels of aid in 1975 at 0.65 percent of GNI to ODA. Today, the Australian Government is giving just 0.21 percent ODA (21 cents out of every $100): the lowest level of aid on record.

The UK Conservative government, supported by the opposition Labour Party, has not only increased aid but in 2015, passed legislation enshrining their 0.7 percent commitment into law. David Cameron, in his resignation speech, said it was one of his proudest achievements.

Why does this matter so much? Because the stakes have never been higher.

Growing global political and economic instability, coupled with advanced military capabilities, makes this the most dangerous period humankind has ever experienced. The threat of global unrest and conflict has never been greater, yet our global governance structures are ineffective and inadequate. The number of human slaves in the world is the largest ever. The number of refugees the largest since WWII. War and climate change threaten food systems and livelihoods.

While the world has worked together to dramatically reduce extreme poverty and diseases like polio, inequality continues to rise and many millions still live in extreme poverty.

Technology and economic interdependence mean the world is more connected than ever, but also that the nation state and democratic sovereignty is breaking down.

Some people feel threatened by rapid change. The response during this transition has hastened the move towards nationalism and nativism, with politicians who speak to those values ascending. Here in Australia, Pauline Hanson represents "charity begins at home" taken to an extreme.

Retreating from the world is wrong and dangerous. We can't and shouldn't close our borders or close ourselves off to the world. The threats facing the world means it has never been more important to work together on global issues.

We must build a new vision of globalisation that benefits the many, not the few -- one that rewards environmental protection. The only thing standing in the way of a world made in Hanson's image or a world that is kinder, fairer and more equal, is a compassionate public and our shared vision of a world remade. Australia must be a model global citizen -- out in the world advocating for a better and more just world. We must be the antidote to their nationalism and nativism. Their fear, division and apathy can be countered with our hope, diversity, and human kindness.

Thankfully, there are some important signs of hope coming from both major political parties.

Labor's Shadow Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Penny Wong recently said "... the principle that I have always advocated, from when I first came into Parliament... is that isolationism is not conducive to prosperity or security".

In early August, Liberal Party Minister Steve Ciobo lamented the move towards nationalism and the growing disillusionment with globalisation. Recently, modest signs of a new approach have surfaced such as the recent Government commitment of $220m towards the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (a 10 percent increase on the previous commitment).

Human kindness and compassion are values that extend far and wide -- they are not contained to our front yard. Our ability to care about one group does not diminish our ability to care about another group.

In these troubled times it is vital that Australia starts increasing the aid budget and addressing the root causes of the challenges that we all face together. The importance of dealing with the root cause of our challenges has never been more urgent.

We are all connected -- humanity will either succeed or fail together.

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