Like many Australians, I am proud of our Government’s long-standing bipartisan policy of increasing foreign aid to fight extreme poverty around the world. That’s why it came as a complete shock and a disappointment to discover that it now intends to “divert” AU$375 million (US$390m) in funding from the foreign aid budget to pay for the processing of asylum seekers.
Lets be clear, the siphoning of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to pay for the Government’s own domestic budget is not on. The purpose of Australia’s foreign aid is to kick-start international development and improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.
Around the world more than 20,000 children still die each day due to simple causes that can be easily prevented, like diarrhoea. Millions of people live on less than $2 a day in our neighbouring countries like East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Australia’s foreign aid must reach those in need overseas.
The Australian Government currently only gives 35 cents in every $100 to assist those in poverty around the world. But what we do give makes a big difference and saves lives. Australian aid dollars have helped eradicate polio in the Western Pacific, put more than half a million children into school and is set to help immunise 7.7 million children over the next 4 years.
The vast majority of Australians support increasing foreign aid, but we also want to know that the money is reaching those who need it most in the poorest countries around the world.
Foreign aid should be putting children in schools around the world, not putting them in Australian detention centres. Millions of Australians, young and old, expect the funds to reach the world’s poor. And millions more of those living in poverty are depending on it.
Australia made the promise, on the global stage, to increase aid for the world’s poor; and we have been recognised by the UN as a world leader in fighting global poverty. This is a question of whether Australia can be trusted to keep its word.
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