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Australian Council for International Development ‘s Media Release on Foreign Aid

May 4, 2014

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) issued a media release commenting on the Commission of Audit recommendations on foreign aid.


02/05/14 ACFID Media Release:

Three things the Commission of Audit got wrong on Foreign Aid (and a couple they got right)

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak body for Australian aid and humanitarian charities, finds the Commission of Audit recommendations on foreign aid disappointing due to a lack of research, contradictory recommendations and generally out of step with international standards and Australian public expectations.

“The Commission of Audit got three fundamentals wrong in regards to foreign aid,” said ACFID Executive Director Marc Purcell.

“Firstly, the commission overlooked the strong public support for Australian aid charities. Australians donate over $1 billion each year to support Australian organisations in their work in alleviating poverty around the world. By focusing on multilateral organisations only, the Commission has missed an opportunity to leverage the generous and voluntary public contribution through greater collaboration with Australian charities. Ignoring this substantial public contribution indicates the Commission did not do its homework in this area,” said Mr Purcell.

“Secondly, the Commission’s report tacitly supports the 2% of GDP target for Defence spending, but comes out against a similar target for foreign aid. The Commission ignores the fact that Gross National Income (GNI) targets for aid spending are an agreed standard of OECD countries and calling this target ‘arbitrary’ indicates poor research,” said Mr Purcell.

“An aid target of 0.5% of GNI and annual increases for rates of inflation are election commitments made in the Coalition’s Final Election Policy Commitments last September.[1] The public have a rightful expectation that these aid commitments are no less important than any other made by the Government,” he said.

“Finally, the Commission argued that national interest should dominate in use of tax payers money for foreign aid. Global poverty alleviation is in our national interest. It is not in Australia’s interest to live in a region that is dominated by extreme poverty, weak or unstable governments or countries beset by disasters with inadequate capacity to respond. The public will take a dim view of their tax payer dollars being utilised for purposes other than helping the poorest people,” said Mr Purcell.

Despite missing opportunities, the report had some sensible things to say in regards to outcomes and greater transparency.

“A greater focus on outcomes from aid expenditure is welcome. We support greater coordination of different government departments and agencies in aid delivery to ensure coherence and good standards of practice,” said Mr Purcell.

“In order to help have this greater focus on outcomes, we support the Commission’s call for greater transparency of information about aid expenditure.”

“The Commission’s recommendation of a Ministerial Statement on aid spending will enable the Australian people to see and understand how their taxes are being spent.  We call for adherence to the International Aid Transparency Initiative and the Transparency Charter. Commitment to these would mean full provision of information about Government funded aid programs are provided on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

“Around our region, many people continue to live on less than $2 a day. Approximately 98% of the Federal budget is for the direct needs of Australians. As the 13th largest economy in the world that has enjoyed 22 years of uninterrupted economic growth, we have the capability to help those in need,” Mr Purcell concluded.