“Slash and burn” cuts to foreign aid a double whammy, hurting the vulnerable and Australia’s national interest, says Save the Children
Australia has been described by Save the Children as the stingy neighbour after Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed massive cuts of $3.7 billion to Australian aid in today’s federal budget.
“No-one likes a stingy neighbour but that’s what Australia is after today’s massive cuts to Australian aid,” Save the Children’s Director of Policy & Public Affairs Mat Tinkler said.
“Today’s cuts will hurt the world’s most vulnerable children, some of whom live in neighbouring countries Myanmar and Indonesia, which had aid slashed by a whopping 40 percent each.
“In Indonesia, 136,000 children die each year before the age of five, largely from preventable causes, including treatable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and malaria. Yet we’ve ripped $220m out of the aid we give Indonesia each year, and this will hit these children hard.
“The cuts to Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Mongolia totalled $390m per year. Slashing Australian aid may seem like a quick fix to our budget woes but it will backfire in the long run and is already damaging our reputation globally.
“The UK has been through a horrible recession yet a conservative government there enshrined in law the need to help the world’s poor, ring-fencing overseas aid from cuts. Meanwhile Australia is walking away from its international obligations to help end poverty. This is hardly a good look for a nation that prides itself on a fair go for all.”
Today’s cuts have confirmed what Save the Children has long feared – a huge 20 percent reduction ($1bn) to Australian aid next financial year, with cuts totalling $3.7bn over the next three years.
The cuts mean Australia – one of the world’s wealthiest countries and approaching a world record for continuous economic growth – will slip from among the most generous to least generous OECD nations, says Save the Children.
“This is a massive step in the wrong direction for Australia. A robust regional aid program helps ensure regional stability and creates economic growth. A strong aid program is in Australia’s national interest, however Australia has decided to sacrifice the world’s poor so Joe Hockey can try to balance his budget. It is short-sighted and will hurt Australia in the long run,” Mr Tinkler said.
Save the Children estimates that $1 billion in cuts to Australian aid could mean:
170,000 less mothers and babies will be helped by a skilled birth attendant
460,000 less children will be vaccinated against killers like polio and measles
1,800 less school classrooms will be built
270,000 less children will be enrolled in school
“Make no mistake, programs helping millions of children around the world will be forced to shut, prompting awkward questions about why a wealthy nation like Australia would abandon the world’s poor. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of children won’t go to school and communities will be less prepared for disasters like cyclones, earthquakes and floods,” Mr Tinkler said.