World Vision Australia has welcomed the Opposition’s promise to appoint a Minister for International Development and to elevate AusAID to an independent government department if elected, and has urged the ALP to match the commitment.
The organisation also hailed the strengthened commitment from Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to ‘progressively increase’ aid to 0.7% dependent on future national economic growth.
World Vision’s chief executive Tim Costello said both commitments were welcome but more was needed if Australia was to match the lead of nations like the United Kingdom to elevate international development to the Cabinet, and to commit to 0.7% regardless of economic conditions.
“Elevating the International Development portfolio would bring a more direct line of accountability through parliament and build public confidence that aid and development money is being spent effectively,” Mr Costello said.
“Australia lags behind other countries that have already elevated development efforts to the same level as diplomacy and defence. This ensures Australia reaps the benefits of its efforts to foster stability and economic development in our region.”
Mr Costello also urged both parties to stop using the caveat of ‘if economic circumstances allow’ when discussing the possibility of lifting overseas aid levels to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI).
“Australia is the only developed nation that has avoided recession during the global financial crisis, while other countries have suffered economically they have maintained their commitment to 0.7%. We can afford to show leadership on this issue.”
Increases in Australian aid can be effectively used to reduce child and maternal mortality, provide food security, improve basic education and support infrastructure such as clean water and sanitation services. The international need in each of these areas is very large and effective strategies to provide these services exist.
An additional $10 million invested in health care for developing countries is likely to prevent the deaths of almost 4,500 mothers and children every year.
Mr Costello said the commitments by both the major parties on aid should be applauded and are welcome during an election campaign that has been dominated by domestic issues.
Tim Costello and Martin Thomas (World Vision’s Head of Advocacy) are available for media interviews.
Media contact: Dominic McInerney on 0428 584 809