World Vision says cuts to Australian aid 'cruel'
World Vision Australia says the Australian Government is using its aid budget to try and balance its books and the latest cuts are 'unfair and cruel'.
The head of World Vision Australia says the Australian government is using the aid budget to try and balance its books and the latest cuts of more than three billion US dollars, extra to previous reductions spelt out in May of seven billion US dollars, are immoral, unfair and cruel.
Tim Costello told Jenny Meyer the slashing of aid will have a profound impact on development and will cost lives.
TIM COSTELLO: The extent of the aid cuts are absolutely historic in their devastation. Australian aid is at its lowest level since records began. In the stalled budget presented by Joe Hockey our Treasurer in May, the savings that he looked for, 20 per cent of them came from the aid budget. Aid was only 1.3 per cent of the budget, but 7.6 billion dollars of savings. And if that wasn't bad enough, just in the recent statement made on Tuesday, another 3.7 billion dollars was cut from aid. So well over 30 per cent of all the savings the Australian government is trying to make, has come from aid. Not only breaking their promises of getting to 0.5 per cent of GNI, that's 50 cents in every $100 dollars, we're going backwards to 22 cents. Slipping from third most generous nation on the OECD list down to 20th most generous, when we're actually the third richest nation in the world. We already weren't pulling our weight, now we're right at the bottom of the league table.
JENNY MEYER: This seems quite extraordinary, a huge amount of money, billions of dollars lost to people who really need it, in terms of the Pacific region have you got any idea what kind of implications these cuts will have for projects around the Pacific?
TC: This will have devastating impacts in all of the Australian Aid programme and certainly a lot of that has been in the Pacific. Earlier in the year 7.7 million was ripped out of the Solomons and the only area likely to be protected is Papua New Guinea because we have an asylum seeker refugee centre and that's obviously a top priority for this government. But right across the Pacific and South East Asia and certainly Africa we're going to see massive cuts.
JM: What does it mean for you in terms of planning and projects that you have underway and perhaps projects that you're looking forward to in the future?
TC: Well this leaves our aid programme and our work in tatters, that's why it's devastating. When I started at World Vision eleven years ago it was 30,000 children under the age of five dying, today because of focus and generosity it's going to be under 17,000 that die today. We have been making progress but it depends on predictability of aid. And when you have arbitrary cuts and have to pull programmes it literally costs lives.
JM: Have they been specific about where those cuts will come in the aid budget, do you know?
TC: No, no they haven't. We have no idea except we know it's going to be across every part of the aid progamme because it's so massive. They haven't been specific. And these cuts you know 7.5 billion and 3.7 (billion) are over the next three years so I guess in their minds they figure, we've made the announcement, now we'll work out where we'll cut. So at every level I and so many of the other agencies believe this is immoral. We always saw ourselves as a nation of the 'fair go' doing 'the right thing'. Who are we now? And that profound question can't be answered because this has just been so unusually harsh, unfair and cruel.
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