Latest budget disappoints on foreign aid

Last night’s Federal Budget was disappointing: it brought few new aid commitments, apart from a promise of support for India and the Pacific.  

A large part of last night’s budget had also already been announced. Over the past few months, as COVID-19 spikes across the Pacific and Asia, the government has injected urgently needed funds and support to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and India.  

Kirsty Robertson, our CEO, said that without the significant contribution of PPE and medical supplies to India during the biggest global spike in COVID-19 so far, it’s likely that many more lives would have been lost. We welcome its continuation with the two-year package of $37.1m support outlined in the budget for India.” 

In addition to the two-year package for India, the government has committed to send 10,000 Australian-made COVID-19 vaccine doses each week to the Pacific and Timor-Leste. These vaccines will make a significant difference to our closest neighbours, who are either struggling to control an outbreak of the virus, as is the case for Papua New Guinea, or waiting in fear for the virus to land on their shores.  

The vaccines and medical supplies that Australia has sent to many of our neighbours have been lifesaving, and the new commitments outlined in the budget will make a real difference. But there are still complications with ensuring that these urgently needed vaccine doses reach all members of the community, including the most remote and marginalised. Throughout much of the Pacific, the existing health infrastructure is weakso the rollout of vaccinations won’t be fast or easy – even if it’s urgent 

Despite this support for the Pacific and India, the Australian Government made few new aid commitments to the rest of the world in last night’s budget. The overall aid budget has been shifted around rather than increased, leaving many regions in the lurch, such as the Middle East and Africa. It is disappointing that the Australian Government has not increased funding to Africa and the Middle East where many communities are facing similar challenges to the Pacific. 

"At a time of increasing hunger, unemployment and poverty globally, we need to step up and prevent further loss of life, and not just from COVID-19. If not now, when?” said Ms. Robertson. 

“Over the last year, we have seen the devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods in the communities we work with. We should stand by our neighbours and provide adequate support to vulnerable populations,” said Ms. Robertson. 

As the crisis continues to evolve worldwide, Australia’s investments and support to the global community are crucial to avoid new, more virulent and deadly strains of COVID-19. Long-term assistance will also be necessary for the global community to recover, as the path to recovery will be painstaking and likely take many years.