Aid cuts for world’s poor this Christmas

Don’t divert aid

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Caritas Australia, an international aid and development agency that helps some of the world’s poorest people, has said the Australian Government‘s plans to divert much needed overseas aid money to fund rising refugee support costs domestically will do irreparable damage to Australia’s international reputation.

The proposed aid cuts show that out of all the 23 OECD countries that give overseas aid, Australia will now be the biggest spender on aid within its own borders.

While the US and France spend around three percent of their overseas aid budget on “in-donor expenses” which includes refugee processing, Australia is proposing to spend double that.

Caritas Australia CEO, Jack de Groot, said this latest move to siphon more than $375 million from the aid budget is like dropping a bombshell on the poor, right in time for Christmas.

“This represents a broken promise from the government and it has sent shockwaves through the development sector,” said Mr de Groot.

“It’s not only the poor who feel the pain with this decision, it’s Australia’s reputation. We can no longer say that we’re a country that does what it says.

“It was only a few months ago that the Prime Minister stood up and told the world that every Australian child’s future is tied to the rise of the “Asian Century” and pushed hard to get Australia internationally recognised on the UN Security Council,” said Mr de Groot.

“Our aid budget promises were highly publicised to the international community in the lead up to our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and now, after winning, they plan to turn their backs on these promises and hope that no one will notice”

“Is it a case of getting what we want on the back of broken promises? Is that the image we want to present to the international community?”

“This is now a question of accountability and transparency,” Mr de Groot said.

“We learnt about this decision to siphon aid through a treasury leak. When was the Government going to tell us? After we had all shut-down for Christmas and could not fight back, nor rally our valued supporters to tell the Australian Government that they care about poor communities overseas?

“Julia Gillard and her government are doing this all through the back door. What else are they hiding from us? What programs are they planning to cut?”

Mr de Groot said Labor may think that cutting aid is in Australia’s national interest, but it’s not. Australia’s overseas aid gives hope and is a key part of a small investment in our future security and prosperity.

Mr de Groot said in terms of value for money, in the last year Australian aid saved the lives of at least 200,000 people and helped provide basic education for half a million children, not to mention giving access to clean water and adequate sanitation to thousands more.

$375 million covers the Australian aid programs 2012/13 aid delivery in Cambodia ($94.7 million), Myanmar/Burma ($63.8 million), Laos ($54.9 million) and the Philippines ($128.7 million).

Jack de Groot is available for media interviews.

Media contact: Angela Ford 0400 195 562 or angelaf@caritas.org.au

Useful information

Facts from OECD statistics website: http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx

US total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA): $30.1 Billion (2010), of that $895 million was spent on in-donor/refugee expenses– 2.9% of their total aid budget

France total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA):  14.3 Billion (2010), $435 million was spent on in-donor/refugee expenses– 3.04% of their ODA budget

Australia: $5.2 Billion (2012), $375 million for in-donor/refugee expenses – 7.2% of our Overseas Development Aid budget.