Australia’s foreign aid will undergo a “dramatic change”, with foreign governments set to sign up to performance benchmarks in a move aimed at better monitoring how taxpayers dollars are spent.
In addition, aid programs will be delivered in partnership with the private sector as part of the radical changes to be announced today.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will unveil the new the policy at the National Press Club where she will confirm 90 per cent of the country’s aid program will be diverted to Australia’s “immediate neighbourhood” – the Indo-Pacific region.
In an interview with the ABC, Ms Bishop says Australia’s aid will undergo a radical overhaul moving the aid mentality away from a “donor-recipient” relationship to one centred on economic partnership and development.
“The world has changed and our aid must change with it,” Ms Bishop told the ABC.
“We recognise that aid alone is not a panacea for poverty and so we’re bringing a whole new fresh approach to it,” she said.
She says it will reflect the challenges posed by the economic rise of countries in Asia where, despite the betterment of millions of people, pockets of poverty still exist.
Ms Bishop says time has run out for the old way of delivering foreign aid because it has not worked.
“We can’t keep doing what we’ve always done and expect a better outcome,” she said.
“We’re not getting the outcomes we should expect from the billions and billions of dollars we invest in aid, so I want to see better outcomes.”
Ms Bishop says performance benchmarks will be critical to the new way aid money is spent, stressing it will be in partnership with recipient countries.
“Performance benchmarks are part of the new aid policy to ensure … that we meet those benchmarks so that recipient government’s also take responsibility for the delivery of aid and the implementation of aid programs,” she said.
“If they receive Australian aid we will discuss with them, consult with them about how to get the best outcomes.
“We want to be economic partners, we want to move away from the old stereotype of aid donor, aid recipient and work in partnership with countries, particularly in the Pacific.”
Ms Bishop says Australia has already been in “deep and broad” consultations with recipient governments about the new expectations.
She agreed the new policy was a “dramatic change” in Australia’s aid program, which has sustained major budget cuts and a bureaucratic transformation, with AusAid merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Coalition cut the aid budget by $7.6 billion over five years when it handed down its first budget in May.
It was the single biggest savings measure announced and will see Australia’s aid budget capped at $5 billion over the next two financial years.