The federal government’s cut to the foreign aid budget will put Australia’s security and prosperity at risk, the opposition says.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on Saturday that the government’s aid budget would be cut to $5.042 billion for 2013/14, down $107 million from last year’s budget.
She said the aid expenditure will be focused on the Indo-Pacific region.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said the cuts would affect both Australia and some of the world’s poorest people in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
“Our aid program helps to enhance global prosperity, and Australia’s own security. The Abbott government’s cuts put both at risk,” she said in a statement.
“Australia is a generous country and we can afford to lend a helping hand to those who need it most.”
Ms Bishop said the growth of the previous year’s aid budget was “unsustainable” amid an overall budget deficit forecast for this year.
“We must ensure Australia’s aid program has a funding base that is responsible and affordable,” Ms Bishop said.
The cuts have also been criticised by charities and aid agencies.
Child-rights organisation Plan Australia says the government’s cut will hurt vulnerable children in the developing world and will mean the cuts will come out of programs already underway.
Oxfam chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said the aid agency was disappointed by the cuts.
“Just as Foreign Affairs staff had to do yesterday, we will now go to some of those people we have been supporting and tell them that we can no longer support them, which will be acutely disheartening for them,” she said in a statement.