AusAID merged with DFAT
Former AusAid executive Robin Davies says the loss the agency's autonomy has prompted fears of more job cuts and less altruistic aid priorities.PT8M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u10c 620 349 September 19, 2013
Australia's overseas development agency AusAID faces sweeping job cuts after the Abbott government announced the agency would be collapsed into the foreign affairs department.
Aid advocates swiftly condemned the move, saying aid should be used to solve poverty, not further Australia's overseas interests. And AusAID director-general Peter Baxter is leaving the role, though the government denied initial reports that he had quit, saying that he would move to another senior role.
In a statement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the integration would enable ''the aid and diplomatic arms of Australia's international policy agenda to be more closely aligned''. The decision comes on top of plans by the Coalition to slash the foreign aid budget, cutting $4.5 billion over the next four years.
AusAID, which administers Australia's $5-billion-a-year overseas aid program, is now a separate agency.
The collapsing of AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade means the $5 billion-a-year foreign aid program would come under the control of the department. Australia has had a separate overseas aid agency since the 1970s. Since 2010, the head of AusAID has answered to the foreign minister rather than the head of the department.
AusAID has about 1300 staff based in Canberra. Merging with the department would likely put many of those jobs at risk.
World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said aid should primarily be about alleviating poverty, but this change would make it about pursuing Australia's overseas goals.
''It really submits aid to trade and diplomatic relations,'' he said. ''Purists would say aid should only ever be about poverty reduction and never national interest. It can be about both, but I fear this is tipping the balance much more toward Australia's trade and diplomatic interests.''
His remarks were echoed by other groups including ActionAid Australia and Oxfam Australia.
According to AAP, Mr Baxter sent an email to the agency's staff thanking them for their work.
But a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop denied Mr Baxter had resigned.