8 May 2018: International development sector reeling over $141m cut to foreign aid
Chief Executive Officer of Plan International Australia, Susanne Legena, has slammed tonight’s foreign aid budget as ‘narrow-minded’.

Tonight’s budget has revealed the Government will maintain Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending at $4 billion per year over the forward estimates, but indexation will not recommence until 2022-23.

“Essentially, this budget might look stable but it doesn’t keep up with inflation over the forward estimates. We’re looking at a $141 million loss to our sector over four years. This is a cruel blow that comes on top of years and years of consecutive brutal cuts to Australian aid,” Ms Legena said. 

“It’s absurd that this Government feels it’s appropriate to spend $25 million on a statue of Captain Cook, at a time when the world is in crisis. Millions in Eastern Africa are on the precipice of starvation as conflict flares once more in South Sudan and crops fail after another year of drought, disease is stalking Yemen and children are dying from weapons of war in Syria. 

“As of tonight, the Australian foreign aid budget is now at its lowest level ever. We like to think of ourselves as a generous country but sadly, we are far from it.

“While it’s positive to see a focus on humanitarian assistance and support in the Pacific region, let’s be clear that this doesn’t actually represent an increase. This is just shifting money from one place to another.”

Last year Australia dropped for the third year running to 17th out of 28 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for its contribution to aid. 

“I find it bewildering that we continue to lose, year after year. Our sector is still suffering from the devastating aid cuts in 2014 when we were forced to cancel a major anti child-marriage program in Indonesia and suspend basic education services for children in Timor-Leste and end a vital nutrition program in Zimbabwe.”

Ms Legena added that while the Federal Government is comfortable to divert $3.8 billion to arms manufacturers – the equivalent of Australia’s entire annual aid budget – children in the developing world continue to suffer. 

“We are in a situation where our foreign aid budget has been slashed to only a shell of what it once was and it’s beginning to look like we’ll never regain what we’ve lost. Our world is in crisis. This is not a time to be apathetic about aid. The world’s children need us and as a wealthy country with kind values, we have a duty to step up and help.”

Over the past five years, Plan International Australia has been forced to discontinue or outright cancel nine projects operating in Bangladesh, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.  

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children. 

For media enquiries please contact: Jane Gardner, Media Relations Manager 0438 130 905/ jane.gardner@plan.org.au