The following is a guest blog from Michael Sheldrick, Manager of Global Policy and Campaigns at the Global Poverty Project, an Australian-grown advocacy and public education organization working towards the ending of extreme poverty.
Right now, just as Australia begins to emerge as a significant actor in the fight against global poverty, there are rumors that a tightening Federal budget is placing at risk the Government’s long-standing bipartisan promise to increase Australia’s aid levels to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015.
As the Government looks for ways to bring the budget back into surplus this year, there are real widespread fears that they could renege on their promise by pushing the 2015 deadline out by three-to-five years.
Photo: mothers wait in line to receive vaccines for their children: Australian aid promises to immunize 7.7 million children from killer diseases.
The Government went to the last two elections with a commitment to lift overseas aid expenditure from the equivalent of 35 cents to 50 cents in every $100 dollars of our national income by 2015. This doesn’t quite meet the amount required to reach the target of 0.7% of GNI set by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, but it would bring Australia a whole lot closer, and would make the world of difference in countless lives around the world.
And what a difference Australian aid can make. Over the next four years alone, Australian aid promises to help immunize some 7.7 million children from killer diseases. Make no mistake, aid is a smart investment in our region and scaling back now would be a giant leap backwards for Australian efforts to play our part in helping to lift people out of the devastating cycle of poverty.
That’s why Global Poverty Project, together with most of Australia’s major aid agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations have launched a campaign calling on the Government to resist the temptation to balance its books on the back of the world’s poor.
We’ve been encouraging supporters to email, tweet and call the Treasurer Wayne Swan (@SwannyDPM), the man with ultimate responsibility over the Government’s purse. We’ve also been asking those concerned to tweet the hashtag #dontcutaid in a bid to get the issue on the national agenda. I would strongly encourage ONE members to add their support to this crucial campaign. This year’s budget is decided on May 8 so we only have the next few weeks to make our voices heard!
Suggested tweets – just click on the link to tweet!
As a wealthy country, there is simply no excuse for Australia to put aid on the backburner. There are major misconceptions about the proportion of Australia’s budget that goes toward foreign aid. But the truth of the matter is that every week, around $3.30 in taxes from each Australian pays for our aid program — about the cost of a cup of coffee. This means that as a country Australia gives less than 1% of our overall budget, placing us in the bottom third of wealthy countries in terms of how little we give in aid. We can and should be doing better.