Last night the Australian Government announced the federal budget, announcing it would direct 0.35% of Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid, remaining on track to fulfil the commitment of both major parties to allocate 0.5% of our national income to overseas aid by 2015.
We commend the Government for staying on track to meet this commitment. The decision is important for a number of reasons:
1. It's right that we support the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
We are lucky in Australia that we can afford to support those in need at home as well as provide life-saving aid to those overseas.
2. Australia made a promise - and it's only right that we keep it.
This budget continues to honour a promise that Australia made to the world’s poor when the Howard Government signed on in 2000 to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
3. Foreign aid makes up a very small amount of our federal budget, and it makes a big difference.
Although Australia’s aid budget will account for just 35 cents in every $100 dollars of Australia’s income in 2011-2012, it will have a big impact. According to the UN, over the past 20 years about 14,000 children’s lives a day have been saved with the help of well-targeted aid money.
4. It's in our interest to invest in a secure and prosperous region.
We give aid to the poorest and most fragile countries in our region. By helping to lift people out of poverty, we are doing our part to create a world in which it is safer to travel and in which Australia is less likely to be threatened by or drawn into war.
Aid is also a good investment in regional stability and helps foster economic growth. Stable countries offer new markets for trade and business with Australia. For example, Australia earns an estimated $130 billion annually through exports to countries that receive aid.
5. As a wealthy country, Australia spends a small amount on aid.
Australia has the sixth highest income per person in the world and our level of government debt is by far the lowest of any major developed country. And yet, Australia is still a long way down the list of donor countries in terms of how much we give. A number of European countries are already giving 0.5% of GNI and will hit 0.7% by 2015. In the UK, despite being hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis, David Cameron’s Conservative-led Government has pledged to reach 0.7% by 2013.