CHARITIES are urging the federal government not to make any more cuts to the foreign aid budget as it looks for savings to fix its widening budget deficit.
FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop on Monday reminded a gathering of aid groups that many of the government’s budget savings measures were being blocked by a hostile Senate.
Labor has seized on the remarks, which come amid fresh reports that some cabinet ministers are circling aid ahead of the mid-year budget update.
Shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was “extraordinary” Ms Bishop made the comments at a World Aids Day event and didn’t instead use her appearance to rule out any further cuts.
Australian Council for International Development head Marc Purcell said the aid sector had already taken its fair share of budget pain.
“Any further hacking into Australia’s aid program would be grossly unfair and damaging to Australia’s national interest,” he told AAP.
The foreign aid program took a $7.6 billion hit in the federal budget – the largest single source of savings.
Ms Bishop has resisted calls from inside her party for further cuts to be made, the Australian Financial Review reports.
But Ms Plibersek accused the foreign minister of repeatedly failing to win the support of her senior colleagues for aid.
“How many more times will she be rolled by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey?” she asked.
The foreign minister last week described overseas aid as the “flagship” of Australia’s foreign policy, an endorsement strongly welcomed by the sector ahead of the budget update.
Ms Bishop will on Tuesday open a photographic exhibition documenting the history of Australian aid.