• What is the real impact of the Coalition's planned aid cuts?

    Posted by Ben

    9 September, 2013

    While many predicted that an incoming Coalition Government would slow the growth in the aid budget, few saw coming the depth and cruelty of the cuts they have promised.

    Despite having joined the ALP in making a bipartisan promise to increase aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income, the Coalition will take it backwards from its current level of 0.35% (and scheduled to reach 0.37% in the current year) to 0.32% GNI.

    Despite incoming Prime Minister Tony Abbott having personally declared his commitment to the 0.5% target, the Coalition will preside over the first reversal in aid growth since our nation signed on to support the Millennium Development Goals under Prime Minister John Howard.

    Although Prime-Minister elect, Tony Abbott, and Treasurer-elect Joe Hockey have argued that these are reductions in growth rather than cuts – this is not the case. The Coalition's own costings table (pdf – see item 9.11) shows that they plan to cut $656 million from this year's aid budget – which is money already budgeted and committed. If these cuts go ahead, then the 2013-14 aid budget will be almost 4% smaller than the 2012-13 aid budget

    This is not simply slowing growth – the Coalition plans to take $656 million away from aid this year and $4.5 billion over four years. Aid will be cut this year by almost 4% from 2012-13 and any aid increases in later years will be limited to no more than the inflation rate. These are real cuts with real consequences for people living in poverty.

    We know that good aid works. In 2011-12, Australian aid helped to immunise more than 2 million boys and girls against killer diseases, enrol more than a million children in school, provide clean drinking water for 2.5 million people & improved sanitation for 1.6 million people, as well as lifesaving assistance for more than 16 million people in conflict or crisis. Australians are justifiably proud of this contribution we make for what amounts to less than 35 cents in every $100 of national income (or, looked at another way, less than 1.5% of the Federal Budget).

    None of the key Coalition spokespeople could explain which countries or programs would bear the brunt of the cuts although Mr Hockey in his press conference on Thursday indicated that multilateral bodies would see their funds cut in particular. Many of Australia's most effective aid partners are multilateral bodies, such as UN agencies, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation, so this is not welcome news. It seems that aid has been targeted for cuts without the Coalition having rigorously examined what effect the cuts will have on Australia's aid partners, and the communities we provide assistance to.

    Sadly people have come to expect Governments to break some of their promises after their election. However, very few Governments are elected already promising to break one of their promises. A promise not just to the Australian people, but also to the world's poor.

    Please take action with us and call on the new Prime Minister to keep his aid promise.


    Ben Thurley is Micah Challenge's Political Engagement Coordinator.