The Federal Government has put both lives and stability in our immediate region at risk with its decision to go ahead with a $1 billion cut to the 2015 Australian aid budget, World Vision CEO, Tim Costello says.
Speaking in response to the announcement of 40 per cent cuts to Australian aid across the Asia program, including Indonesia, Mr Costello said the decision meant that despite substantially protecting the Pacific, Australia’s immediate region would bear the lion’s share of the devastating cuts in Asia.
“It seems incredible that we should be willing to undermine the stability and security of our own region, hitting the area of closest and most immediate need and undermining our chances for future prosperity.”
Almost 60 per cent of the $1 billion savings found in the aid budget would be coming from the Asia-Pacific bilateral program, he said.
Mr Costello said the decision by the Government to effectively end aid to Africa, one of the neediest regions in the world, was equally devastating.
“The Abbott-Hockey Government has destroyed our aid program to Africa,” he said in response to the budget announcement that the only Australian funds going to Africa will now be in the form of scholarships.
“So many countries in Africa still have such massive and immediate needs in basic health and primary education – I don’t understand how we can decide that it is OK to shrink our aid to a tertiary scholarship program.”
Over the life of this Government, Australian aid to Sub-Saharan Africa has dropped from close to $225m a year in 2013-14 to $31.8m this financial year.
Mr Costello said he appreciated the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop’s efforts to protect funding to Australia’s major NGOs.
“It is a great relief that the most effective form of aid delivered through NGOs has not been smashed like the rest of the budget,” he said.
“We welcome the decision to limit the reduction in the Australian NGO Cooperation Partnership funding to 5 per cent. Given the severity of the cuts to the overall budget, we appreciate this vote of confidence in NGOs’ ability to deliver aid efficiently and effectively.”
Mr Costello said while welcoming the Foreign Minister’s announcement of a $50m competitive Gender Equality Fund for the Indo-Pacific region, this would not make up for the devastating impact on women and girls of the massive across-the-board cuts in our aid to Asia.
“It is hard to think about gender equality and economic empowerment when you are dying in childbirth in a remote village without access to adequate health care or your child is perishing in your arms because of an untreated case of diarrhoea.
He also noted that cuts to crucial humanitarian and emergency funding had been limited to 3 per cent, and welcomed the Minister’s continuing substantial commitment to this crucial area of international humanitarian assistance, which will receive $329m this financial year.
“When the planet is experiencing increasing natural disasters like we have just witnessed in Vanuatu and Nepal, the ongoing crisis in Syria, and continuing humanitarian issues in Africa, the pressure on international humanitarian efforts has not abated.”
Mary-Louise O’Callaghan – 0427 413 816 /firstname.lastname@example.org