The decision by the Federal Government to make further cuts to the Australian aid budget, the fourth consecutive cut in three years, is deeply disappointing.
As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a contribution of just 0.23 per cent of official development assistance as a share of gross national income (GNI) to help eradicate poverty among some of the world’s most vulnerable communities is the least Australia has ever given and totally inadequate.
Burnet Institute Deputy Director, Professor Mike Toole AM said the cut of AUD$224 million announced in the Budget significantly damages our reputation as a caring nation and community, and undermines efforts to reduce poverty and help build the economies of our neighbouring countries, important to the long-term benefits of all Australians.
“A cut of 37 per cent to health spending within the aid budget since 2013/14 has had and will continue to have significant long-term impact on communities at risk of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV, and puts at risk the lives of thousands of people especially young children. There will be significant numbers of deaths as a result,“ Professor Toole said.
“Continued cuts of this magnitude impact on the most vulnerable, restricting efforts to improve and strengthen education and health systems and build capacity to respond to crisis.
“It sends a bad message to our neighbouring countries that Australians lack compassion for those who find themselves in dire situations. There is so much ground now to be made up in foreign aid and this will take years,” he said.
Burnet Institute Deputy Director and Head of Business Development and Innovation, Associate Professor David Anderson said strong leadership is needed to rectify the situation and recognise the critical importance that supporting countries in need is good for Australia; it enhances economic growth and strengthens regional security.
“All sides of politics must look at this failure to progress towards a responsible level of official development assistance, around the level 0.5% of GNI committed by many countries much less wealthy than Australia,” Associate Professor Anderson said.
“It is disappointing that the foreign aid budget especially in health, is being significantly cut at the same time as increases in medical research expenditure through the Medical Research Future Fund is being reaffirmed.
“If both sectors are leveraged appropriately we could achieve very significant outcomes for health, security and the economy of Australia and the region,” he added.