Coalition won't keep aid commitment
"The Coalition is concerned about unacceptable levels of waste" ... Julie Bishop. Photo: Ken Irwin
THE opposition said yesterday that because the Labor government deferred promised rises in foreign aid in this year's budget it would be impossible for a future Coalition government to meet the 2015 Millennium goals which Australia committed to.
The opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, emailed sector workers, vowing the Coalition would maintain its commitment to increasing the aid budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income, but claimed Labor's budget had made reaching the 2015 target ''impossible''.
Australia signed up to increase overseas aid to the UN Millennium Development Goal in 2000, when John Howard was prime minister.
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The ActionAid Australia chief executive, Archie Law, said both parties were ''gutless'' for breaking their promise to increase support to the world's poor.
"This is a gutless decision by both major parties that shows they are completely out of step with the millions of Australians who donate to aid organisations each year,'' he said.
Instead, the sector was told on Tuesday night there would be ''delayed increases'', with staggered increases from next year taking Australia's aid output to 0.5 per cent by 2016-17.
''I just think it's all smoke and mirrors,'' Mr Law said. ''I wouldn't believe anything that came out of their mouths. We have no confidence whatsoever that they'll do that.''
The Oaktree Foundation chief executive, Tom O'Connor, said the Coalition was equally to blame for backing away from its commitment.
"If the Coalition actually believed in this commitment to the world's poor, as it has claimed, it would oppose the government's decision,'' Mr O'Connor said.
On Wednesday night, both parties refused to support a call by the Greens leader, Christine Milne, for the three parties to reaffirm their commitment to at least 0.5 per cent of gross national income going to international aid by 2015.
The Australian Christian Lobby weighed into the debate yesterday. The managing director, Jim Wallace, said: "That we have both major parties abandoning their commitment to the world's poorest is a sad commentary on the level of both integrity and compassion in a Parliament Australians are increasingly losing confidence in."
But Ms Bishop went further. In her email to the aid sector Ms Bishop claimed the sector was prone to waste and mismanagement, and said the Coalition had ''repeatedly'' urged the government to introduce strict performance benchmarks before increasing aid funding.
''The Gillard government has failed to develop these benchmarks and the Coalition is concerned about unacceptable levels of waste and mismanagement within the multibillion-dollar aid program,'' Ms Bishop wrote.
''It is vital that the aid budget is managed effectively and efficiently to ensure there is ongoing public support.''
AusAID's 2010-11 annual report shows that in recent years potential losses as a consequence of reported fraud equated to about 0.02 per cent of the agency's aid funds.
Yesterday, ActionAid released research showing 84 per cent of regional voters in regional Australia supported increasing Australia's aid budget to 0.7 per cent.