May 9 2017: pre-budget statement - foreign aid is not an atm for national security

Plan International Australia is disappointed at reports the Federal Government is planning to ‘divert’ money from life-saving foreign aid to bolster its national security programs in today’s Budget.

Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart has labelled any further cuts to aid as ‘insensitive’ and ‘bewildering’.

“For the past four years, our foreign aid budget has been slashed to only a shell of what it once was. Now all indications are that it is once more going to be used as an ATM to pay for national security.

“We fail to see the how foreign aid can be rebranded as national security, the two are very different. National security does not feed a starving child or keep a girl out of child marriage. Effectively what this does is take food off the table of the world’s poorest to put guns in the hands of our military.

“Of course national security is important, but it should not occur at the detriment of the world’s most disadvantaged people. If we see further cuts, these will be made at a time when more people in Eastern Africa are starving than the entire population of Australia. 

“Australia has – until recent years – enjoyed a global reputation as a kind and giving nation and most Australians support foreign aid because it’s the compassionate thing to do.  We are very disappointed that it appears the Coalition Government does not view the small amount we have left in the foreign aid budget as worth protecting.”

Earlier this year, OECD figures revealed Australia's total contribution to foreign aid fell to just over $3 billion in 2016, or just 23 cents in every $100 of national profit, its lowest ever level.

In 2014, the Federal Government announced $11 billion in cuts to its foreign aid program and cut a further 20 per cent the following year. The 3 May 2016 budget saw $224 million slashed from aid.

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

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 Australia media contact: Jane Gardner - 0438 130 905 - jane.gardner@plan.org.au