statement: Coalition Government's foreign policy does nothing for world's poorest

Global children’s charity Plan International Australia has responded to the Coalition Government’s foreign policy, labelling it ‘grossly inadequate’.

“This is really disappointing. If the Liberal party is re-elected, we face at least three more years of drastically reduced aid funding,” Plan International Australia’s Acting CEO Susanne Legena said.

“In this plan, not a single cent from the $224 million the Coalition cut from foreign aid earlier this year will be restored. This means Australia’s current level of foreign aid spending remains at its lowest in history. We can and ought to do better than this.

“Unfortunately, after three years and $11 billion cut from aid projects, the rest of the world views Australia as a mean-spirited country. We know this doesn’t accurately represent every day Australians, who believe in compassion and a fair go.

“The name of the policy says it all – a safe and prosperous Australia – it is extremely inward-facing and does virtually nothing for the world’s poor, least of all those who live in our region.”

Australia provides .22 per cent of its annual budget to aid, a figure well behind the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

Cuts have led to the cancellation and closure of a range of Plan International Australia’s life-saving aid projects in poverty stricken locations with catastrophic consequences for the world’s poor.

Under a Coalition Government, 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. 

 “Plan International has seen the impact of these cuts first hand. We have been forced to end several highly successful programs, including programs tackling gender based violence in East Africa, as a result of savage cuts to the aid budget over a number of years,” Ms Legena added.

“These projects were formerly funded by the Australian government. They combatted child marriage, provided kindergartens for preschool students and funded climate change coping mechanisms for children, who face increased risk in a climate unstable world. Budgets for these programs were cut with little or no warning, and even in the middle of project.

In May, the Australian Labor Party pledged to restore the $224 million sliced from the foreign aid budget if re-elected. The Greens recently matched and exceeded that pledge.

“We have been asking the Coalition to show compassion and restore funding so Plan International Australia can guarantee our work with communities in the world’s poorest countries will continue, so that all children can access quality education, healthcare, food and water,” Ms Legena said.

“Today, we know that this is not going to happen. The best advice we can give Australians who want to restore our reputation as a compassionate and fair-go country, is to vote with their hearts on July 2.”

Facts on foreign aid cuts

  • In 2014, the Federal Government announced $11 billion in cuts to its foreign aid program.
  • The aid budget was cut by 20 per cent in the 2015 financial year.
  • The 3 May budget cut a further $224 million from aid, making Australia the least generous in our nation’s history.
  • The latest cuts have reduced Australian aid to $3.8 billion in the 2016/17 financial year, representing just 0.9 percent of the Federal Budget and .23 percent of gross national income (GNI).