Foreign Minister Julie Bishop does not believe saving the endangered Sumatran rhinoceros should be a priority of the Australian aid budget.
Poverty should be eliminated through promoting economic growth and the aid budget should focus on Australia’s region, Ms Bishop told parliament on Tuesday.
She defended the government’s decision to cut a $3 million grant, over three years, from the World Wildlife Fund towards a rhino conservation project.
Former foreign minister Bob Carr promised the cash in 2013 during a visit to Indonesia, but Ms Bishop dismissed that as an attempt to create material for his coming book.
“That’s a lovely a project for the World Wildlife Foundation (sic) but not for the Australian government aid budget,” she said.
Sumatran rhinos are threatened by poaching and there are fewer than 200 left in the wild.
The funding was going towards habitat protection, anti-poaching efforts and monitoring of the rhino horn trade.
Ms Bishop also attacked funding former senator Carr had allocated towards architecture preservation projects in Myanmar.
“Fine for some UN organisation but not for the Australian aid budget,” Ms Bishop said.
She mocked the previous Labor government’s decision to siphon foreign aid money towards the cost of overseas immigration detention centres to house asylum seekers.
“The Labor government made itself the third-largest recipient of foreign aid,” she said.