Instead of lecturing the UK to spend more on International Development Assistance in the Pacific, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should first be explaining why her own Government has cut more than $11 billion from our aid budget under her watch.
In a great example of “do as I say, not as I do” Ms Bishop has backed in comments by Minister for International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells that Britain should spend more of its aid budget in the Pacific.
Few governments are in a worse position than the Turnbull Government to lecture anyone on their aid spending, least of all the UK, which has a legislated, bipartisan commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on International Development Assistance.
That is more than triple Australia’s commitment, with aid spending this financial year projected to be just 0.22% of GNI and the Turnbull Government’s own budget figures forecasting this will fall to just 0.17%.
This comes at a time when the Turnbull Government’s aid cuts and abandonment of our region is allowing other, non-traditional partners to step in with increased promises of aid funding and fill the gap.
The Foreign Minister’s own DFAT White Paper, released just four months ago declares:
“Australia’s overseas aid program aims to help developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development in line with Australia’s national interest.”
The Turnbull Government’s cuts to development assistance are already a source of international embarrassment for Australia, and are at odds with the generous spirit of the Australian people.
That is why, in February, Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong committed a Shorten Labor Government to rebuilding Australia’s international development assistance program and increasing aid investment beyond current levels.
Instead of continuing to prioritise massive tax cuts for big business and lecturing other nations to do more, Julie Bishop should instead be urging her own cabinet colleagues to rule out further cuts in this year’s Budget to Australia’s already embarrassingly low level of international development assistance.