Stepping up in the Pacific at the expense of Pakistani women and girls
By Stephen Howes Since coming into office in 2013, the Coalition has cut aid by 17 per cent in nominal terms and 27 per cent adjusting for inflation. More cuts are in the pipeline, and by 2021 aid will have been subject to a real cut of 31 per cent.
Given that the Coalition’s justification for cutting aid was the budget deficit, you might have thought that now Australia is heading for a surplus, there might be room for increasing aid. But no – in a recent interview with the podcast Good Will Hunters, International Development Minister Alex Hawke said that the last election had been a referendum on overseas aid, that the voters had rejected Labor’s proposed aid increase, and that no aid increases were in the offing. “We’re not revisiting that envelope,” Hawke said.
The suggestion that any election is a referendum on aid is laughable. Find me a person who bases their vote on foreign aid policy. As far as I know, not a single question to either major political leader during the election campaign concerned aid.
But clearly, foreign aid is the lowest priority for the Coalition. It has been singled out. Aid has been cut by 27 per cent since 2013, but total expenditure has increased by 18 per cent over the same period. Answers by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the most recent Senate Estimates hearings confirmed that next year Australia’s aid-to-gross national income (GNI) ratio will fall to 0.2 per cent, the lowest ever. Among 36 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, only the much bigger United States and a few much poorer (e.g. Poland) and/or newer (e.g. South Korea) and/or crisis-ridden (e.g. Spain and Greece) countries provide 0.2 per cent or less of GNI in foreign aid.
Because of the cuts, …read more