Sunday, 19th January 2014

The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed disappointment at news of further cuts to overseas aid.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said Christians had been at the forefront of urging the both Labor and the Coalition to keep the Millennium Development Goal promises, which included increasing aid to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2015.

“Like Labor’s deferrals of aid increases in the past two budgets, the Coalition’s cuts have come as a big disappointment to Christians who believe that we should be generous with our aid,” he said.

Mr Shelton said the United Kingdom, whose budget and economic situations were far worse than Australia’s, was on track to meet its MDG aid promise on aid this financial year.

“If the UK can do it, so can we.”

While the 0.7 per cent target had long been set aside by both sides of Australian politics, Labor and the Coalition had pledged to at least increase aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015.

However, two days before the Federal election, Treasurer Joe Hockey made a surprise announcement that $4.5 billion would be cut over the next four years. The Coalition dropped the 2015 timeframe during the election campaign, citing budget difficulties.

Despite not being able to give a timeframe, Mr Shelton said the Coalition election promise is to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI.

“ACL is grateful for this commitment but believes a time-frame should be set as soon as practicable to ensure that this target does not fall by the way side," he said.

“Fifty cents for every $100 of gross national income does not seem a lot for a wealthy country like Australia,” Mr Shelton said.

“While great strides have been made in lifting people out of poverty, 29,000 children die every day from preventable diseases. Clearly there is much more to be done.”

Mr Shelton noted that there was bi-partisan agreement following a 2011 independent review that Australia’s aid was effective and not being wasted.

In 2000 Australia, along with 188 nations, promised to increase aid to 0.7 per cent of GNI, along with a range of other measures aimed at halving extreme poverty by 2015.