As anyone who has been with RESULTS or other organisations working on international development knows, the provisions for overseas aid and other measures which affect international development at most rate a very brief mention in media coverage of a Federal Budget.

This makes our efforts to interpret, and draw public and political attention to what is in the Budget for international development, even more important.  

Each year, RESULTS Australia (and many of our non-government sector counterparts) prepare a detailed Budget submission with proposals for the overall level of aid and the priorities for how this amount should be allocated to have the most impact.   

An initial assessment of how this year’s Federal Budget compares with our proposals suggests the provisions for the coming year and the following three years fall into the categories of The Good, The Bad and The Unknown;

The Good:  Australia is increasing its contributions to humanitarian programs by $60 million in 2017-18, and has reinstated funding for multilateral health and education programs, which were reduced significantly in 2016-17.  The Budget Paper on the Overseas Aid program also links country programs and multilateral support more closely to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Bad:  The Budget delivers the amounts that we had expected (based on the Forward Estimates in last year’s Budget) in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but then freezes the aid program at just over $4 billion in the following two years.  This is effectively a reduction of $300 million from what we were expecting.  This is likely to mean that the majority of country programs and multilateral contributions will remain at the current low level in dollar terms over the next three years, and reduces the prospect of increased pledges by Australia to the next replenishments of the Global Fund, Gavi or the Global Partnership for Education, which are due between 2018 and 2020.

The Unknown:  We have called for continued and increased funding for TB programs in Papua New Guinea, support for completing polio eradication and medical research into infectious diseases.  The Budget paper on the Overseas Aid program does not provide details of provisions for these programs, although we may hear announcements of funding for these programs in late 2017 or early 2018.

Our work with parliamentarians in the near future will be essential:

  • They can acknowledge and seek details about the implementation of The Good components of the aid program.
  • They can call for the Government to change the Bad reduction in aid from expected levels in future years..
  • Through questions in Senate Estimates and on notice in the Parliament, they can seek the details on the Unknown parts of the aid program

Mark Rice

Policy and Advocacy Manager