RESPONDING to reports that the Prime Minister is today planning to further gouge the Australian aid budget by more than $450 million, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said: “The Government must not desperately dip into Australia’s already depleted aid budget.
“At a time when the world faces multiple humanitarian crises, and after already cutting Australian aid to an all-time low in its previous two budgets, such a decision is unconscionable and would be akin to Australia turning its back on the region and the world.
“Right now, about 30 million people in four countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen –are experiencing alarming hunger. Famine has been declared in South Sudan and is likely to already be happening in parts of northeast Nigeria, while Yemen and Somalia are on the brink,” Dr Helen Szoke said.
“An unprecedented 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.
“Previous cuts have already seen Australia’s aid spending cut to an historic low, which now equates to about just 23 cents in every $100 of gross national income.
“These cuts have affected long-term programs and have forced Oxfam to scale back its life-saving work in countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zambia.
“Diverting Australia’s already meagre aid budget to prop up intelligence agencies is unnecessary when the Government could instead target the top end of town.
“The Australian Government should instead back down on its company tax cuts and further crack down on multinational tax avoidance, which is costing our coffers billions.
“I’ve just returned from famine-gripped South Sudan, where I saw first-hand how aid can save lives.
“Aid is an essential part of Australia’s contribution to a more peaceful, stable and sustainable world – both for our own citizens and for our neighbours.
“Diverting money from the aid program will not boost national security. In fact, a strong aid program is fundamental to peace and security in the region and throughout the world.
“Australia needs to act now to save lives – and this requires a strong Australian aid program that can fight poverty now and help ensure lasting peace through long-term, effective programs.
“In a world where just eight men have the same amount of wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest people, and the richest 1 per cent of Australians own more wealth than the poorest 70 per cent combined, this Budget is a chance to act on soaring inequality at home and abroad.
“It is a chance which must not be squandered,” Dr Helen Szoke added.