The Abbott government officially slashed foreign aid to an historic low on the same day as disaster struck again in Nepal, angering humanitarian groups.
Tuesday’s federal budget reduced aid by 20 per cent for the coming financial year, representing the biggest single-year cut in the nation’s history.
Foreign aid for 2015-16 has been reduced from $5 billion to $4 billion, bringing the Liberal government’s total aid cuts to $11.3 billion in its first term.
“If this budget is a test of fairness, it totally fails the poorest in the world,” World Vision chief Tim Costello said in a statement.
Australia’s aid will drop to 0.22 per cent of national income as a result of this budget, well below the United Nation’s goal of 0.7 per cent.
The cuts have made Australia “the least generous we’ve ever been”, said Campaign for Australian Aid project manager Adam Valvasori.
“The fact this cut coincided with yet another earthquake in Nepal highlights the need for Australia to play our part in helping the vulnerable and the poor as they tackle poverty and disadvantage to build a brighter future,” Mr Valvasori said in a statement.
As Australia geared up for the budget release on Tuesday, the northeast of the poor Himalayan nation was hit by a 7.3-magnitude quake that injured at least 1,200 people, only two weeks after more than 8000 died.
Poor children and families will suffer as a result of these cuts, said a spokesman for charity group ChildFund Australia.
“This means vital aid projects for the world’s most vulnerable children and families will be drastically scaled back, resulting in less children accessing the basics they need to survive and thrive,” ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said in a statement.
Mr Spence refuted the idea that cuts were necessary because total aid amounted to a mere one per cent of the budget.
“Even wiping out the entire aid program would have little impact on the budget’s bottom line,” Mr Spence said.
The needy nations who lost
Non-disaster relief aid for Nepal will be cut from $33.9 million to $26.8 million by the budget.
Indonesia, which recently executed Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, suffered, its $605.3 million share almost halved to $366.4 million.
Treasurer Hockey insisted that Indonesia’s diminished aid was “not at all” retaliation for the killings of the two Australian citizens.
Most experts had predicted our neighbour would get less assistance before the pair faced the firing squad.
African aid was cut even more — by 70 per cent from $186.9 million to $93.9 million.
South East Asia did not fare well either, with Vietnam, Burma, Laos and the Philippines facing 40 per cent cuts.
Aid to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will also be cut by 40 per cent.
The nations who fared better
Cambodia, which is about to resettle refugees on behalf of Australia, and East Timor were left largely unscathed.
Papua New Guinea, which hosts the Manus Island immigration detention centre, will receive five per cent less in aid but now becomes Australia’s top aid recipient pocketing $553.6 million next financial year.
Aid cuts unpopular, poll suggests
An online poll run by Campaign for Australian Aid, which received more than 2,500 votes in the two hours immediately after Mr Hockey’s budget speech, found 60 per cent of respondents did not support the cuts.
At the time of publication, opposition to the cuts had increased to more than 65 per cent on the poll.
Click here to donate to ChildFund’s humanitarian efforts in Nepal.