Cricket Ball Tamperers Outrage us, But Pollies Get Away With Cheating on World's Poorest
Australians like to think of themselves as Good Samaritans in the world. We believe we’re one of the few generous nations willing to stop and help the beaten traveller by the roadside.
Our Federal politicians, many of them with a personal faith, head into their Easter break today to contemplate the death and resurrection of Jesus, his grace and forgiveness. His teaching was always a gospel of good news for the poor and often hard news for the rich.
The message of generosity and fairness is as relevant to secular Australia as it is to Christians. As a nation we want to share our prosperity.
We get out of our seats, outraged, when our national cricket stars ball tamper with yellow sandpaper. But somehow, the Federal Government has been allowed to cheat on its global responsibilities for years by cutting billion-dollar holes in its aid budget.
There has been a callous and pointed shift away from helping the most vulnerable in the world – against Australians’ own values and expectations.
This week, our international OECD allies struck out at Australia for taking a short cut to the high moral ground – we don’t give our fair share helping the world’s most vulnerable, but we assume we deserve a leadership position in the region.
There are now reports the Government is considering cutting a further $400 million each year Australia’s overseas aid budget. This is bewildering. Australia’s aid budget has been disproportionately slashed since the Coalition formed government in 2013.
How much we spend on aid - and why - shouldn’t be in answer to the question “What’s in it for us?”. But even if it was, there are plenty of reasons why Australia should be investing in good aid, working primarily for the world’s most vulnerable.
A pattern of aid and development is like the warm handshake at the start of a meeting. We know that every $1 of Australian aid to Asian countries results in about $7 in Australian exports to Asian countries. This is how today’s aid recipients become tomorrow’s trading partners.
Our two-faced approach to the world has been noticed. This will harm us just as diplomacy in a volatile globe is at its most critical. The Federal Government’s own White Paper on foreign policy this urgent need for a soft approach. But this means DFAT needs a bumped-up diplomacy and development fighting fund, not a deflated one.
At the same time as cutting aid, the Government wants to bolster corporate coffers. They are still to gain the support of the Senate for a planned corporate tax rate from 30 to 25 per cent. But if it flies, that’s $65 billion the Government will need to pull from elsewhere.
This “take from the poor and give to the rich” approach releases big corporates from paying their own fair share – so we can properly fund hospitals, schools and empower communities to help tackle poverty. If the government needs to save money it should look at the areas of overspend in the economy, not the areas that have been funded the least.
Work from the aid sector has been responsible for real change that has empowered women, lifted children into education and enabled families to set up new lives.
This isn’t about giving handouts to plug holes, but empowering vulnerable populations to rise sustainably above their hardships.
And the hardships are extreme. There are 65 million displaced people in the world. Half of those are children who are particularly susceptible to disease and food shortages.
Reducing our help to these people in the direst of need should not be an option. To back out further from an already stingy commitment turns our back on our shared humanity.
We are a compassionate nation, we have talented and willing people, we have expertise and we are prosperous. There is no reason we can’t offer a sturdier helping hand and every reason why we should.
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*Tim Costello is Micah Executive Director and Chief Advocate at World Vision Australia