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Budget 2007: One small step for the aid program, one giant leap still required.



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Media Release BOB McMULLAN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR FEDERAL/STATE RELATIONS SHADOW MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR FRASER

9 May 2007

ONE SMALL STEP FOR THE AID PROGRAM, ONE GIANT LEAP STILL REQUIRED

On the face of it, Labor welcomes the modest improvement to the aid program announced in the 2007 Budget.

Although the broadcast improvements are not as significant as the Government would like the aid community to believe, we welcome even a slight improvement to the lagging Australian aid program.

Whilst the Government seems to have heeded Federal Labor’s call for increased funding in a range of sectors, there are still many shortfalls:

• Education - Labor called for an increased focus on primary education, but in fact the proportion spent on basic education has fallen;

• Infrastructure - the increased spending on infrastructure is welcome but fails to address the crisis in access to clean water, which is the biggest cause of child death in the world.

Furthermore, there is still no focus on the key task of implementing the Millennium Development Goals - global goals the Howard Government signed up to in the year 2000 to reduce poverty by half by the year 2015. Since then, the Howard Government has made no commitment to achieve these goals.

And what of climate change? One of the greatest issues impacting our neighbouring region barely got a mention.

Many of our neighbouring states in the South Pacific are already dealing with the impact of climate change and the emergency of climate change refugees. The Howard Government’s token response is to make a one-off payment this year to financial institutions such as the World Bank to meet objectives of mitigation and adaptation. This is grossly under-estimating the response needed, and shows the

Howard’s Government lack of understanding of the very real issue of climate change.

Another headline issue for which there are limited new funds is HIV/AIDs. HIV/AIDs is one of the largest threats to Papua New Guinea and the Asia Pacific. This “looming pandemic”, as described by Bill Bowtell (Lowy Institute), is not only rising at alarming rates, but also “threatens severe financial consequences”.

It has taken the Howard Government 11 years to arrive at this stage and even now, the aid program still lags behind the international donor community. In fact, there has been no change in the ratio of aid as a per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) and only a 3% increase in real change over the previous year. Australia’s aid contribution has remained stagnant at an embarrassingly low 0.3 per cent GNI. This is still below the Labor Government’s contribution to aid of 0.32 per cent GNI in 1996, and well below the average country effort of 0.46 per cent GNI.

ODA/GNI ratio (%)

0. 32

0.28

0.27 0.27

0.29

0. 25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.26

0. 29 0.3 0. 3

0.1

0.15

0.2

0.25

0.3

0.35

1995-1996 1996-1997 1997-1998 1998-1999

1999-2000 2000-2001 2001-2002 2002-2003

2003-2004 2004-2005 2005-2006 2006-2007

2007-2008

Date

ODA/GNI ration (%)

ODA/GNI ratio (%)

We will continue to examine the details of the aid budget to ensure that the focus of Australia’s aid remains the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and the reduction of global poverty and inequality.

Australians are generous people. They are entitled to expect that their government will use their money efficiently and effectively on these high priority challenges.

Contact: Sabina Curatolo 0400 318 205