Foreign aid cuts deeply disheartening, says expert

The Federal Government’s decision to cut foreign aid spending in the Budget is disappointing, especially considering substantial amounts of aid money are being used to house asylum seekers, according to an expert at the University of Western Sydney.

Professor James Arvanitakis is the 2012 Prime Minister’s University Teacher of the Year, and has worked extensively with Aid/Watch and the Centre for Policy Development.

He says it’s concerning the Federal Government has deferred its promise to increase the foreign aid spending to 0.5 per cent of gross national income.

“The foreign aid budget is still increasing, but it’s still disheartening to see the government couldn’t honour its foreign aid pledge, which now appears to be just another aspirational target that may never be met” Professor Arvanitakis says.

“Considering our region is home to many countries struggling with the effects of climate change and high unemployment, sticking to our foreign aid promise would have shown the government is serious about helping our neighbours.”

“Given the political climate, it seems that there maybe even less in the budget for overseas development in the years to come as the Opposition has refused to support the 0.5% measure.”

Professor Arvanitakis says the decision is made worse considering $750 million dollars of the aid budget is now being diverted to house asylum seekers.

“Using some aid money for this purpose may be in line with OECD guidelines, but it still runs completely counter to the spirit of these guidelines,” he says.

“Push factors are always more significant than pull factors in refugee movements, and if the government wanted a real solution, money would be better spent in working with the region to ensure human rights are respected in the places people are fleeing”.

Professor Arvanitakis says despite the setback to the aid budget, it’s good to see the government is requiring big businesses to make sacrifices.

“The Federal Government should be applauded for cracking down on tax loopholes and preventing multinational companies from shifting their profits offshore,” he says.

“The business community has been lobbying for tough changes to balance the books, and this budget will give the big multi-national companies the opportunity to show just how eager they are to help Australia meet its budget promises.”


15 May 2013

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer