Need for time bound commitment for foreign aid

AUSTRALIA’s foremost grassroots anti-poverty organisation has this week supported Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s reaffirmation of the Coalition’s policy to maintain Australia’s foreign aid budget in May’s Federal Budget and is urging the Government to work towards achieving the bipartisan-agreed goal of increasing aid to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) as quickly as possible after 2016-17.

RESULTS International (Australia) is also urging both sides of the political divide to continue their strong involvement in the foreign aid program and make a firmer time-bound commitment so that Australians are clear on when the Government will achieve the goal.

“We believe Mr Abbott’s reaffirmation of the Coalition’s commitment to increase aid in line with our Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the May budget is a worthwhile start,” CEO of RESULTS, Ms Maree Nutt, said.

“However, we firmly believe that increasing the foreign aid budget in line with our GNI is essential to give our foreign aid program the best possible chance of making a real and effective impact in the fight against poverty.

“We would also welcome a Government who is committed to a time-bound goal because when lives are on the line every second counts,” Ms Nutt added.

Mr Abbott fell short of making a firm commitment during Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday, saying: “Once the budget is back into sustainable surplus, then we will reconsider this matter of 0.5 per cent of GNI. In the meantime we will generally be increasing foreign aid by CPI.”

The Prime Minister’s reaffirmation was made in a pertinent week in international development as World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was commemorated on Monday, March 24.

“TB still affects 9 million people worldwide with over half of these occurring on Australia’s doorstep,” Ms Nutt added.

In January, the Federal Government decided to scrap $10 million from the foreign aid program that supports cutting-edge medical research into combatting two major killers in our region: TB and malaria.

“We are hoping this decision, which is now under review, will be reversed in the May budget. Strong and increasing investments in health and education programs in our region is in all of our interests,” Ms Nutt said.

RESULTS is calling on the Government to announce a firm timetable to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI as soon as possible when the budget is predicted to be back in sustainable surplus after 2016-17.

“Ongoing illness and death from TB alone could cost Australia’s poorest neighbours trillions of dollars over the next decade,” Ms Nutt continued.

“We need to act now before it’s too late.”