The Uniting Church in Australia has encouraged Church members to advocate strongly for increases in government overseas aid funding.
The Assembly meeting also agreed to encourage Church members to increase their own support for development aid through personal and church giving, and through advocacy and encouragement of their friends and community.
Australia’s overseas aid budget represents only 1 per cent of federal expenditure but the deep cuts in the 2015-16 Federal Budget amounted to more than a quarter of the budget savings measures.
Introducing a proposal demanding the federal government restore the cuts, the national director of UnitingWorld Rob Floyd said foreign aid had become an easy and expedient area for the Australian government to cut.
“What this ignores is the vital contribution Australia’s aid program makes to solving the world’s shared problems such as the effects of climate change, of increasing conflict and instability, of changing migration and refugee patterns, and global disease,” he said.
In 2015-16, total Australian Overseas Development Aid (ODA) will make up only 0.9 per cent of overall federal expenditure, falling from around 1.2 per cent in 2014-15.
The 2015-16 budget confirms further cuts of $2.7 billion in the forward estimates with a $1.332 billion cut in 2016-17 and $1.377 billion cut from 2017-18.
As a result, total ODA in 2016-17 will be $3.912 billion and will represent only 0.22 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI), the lowest ever level since records began.
“Australia is a prosperous nation surrounded by developing countries. Though we are in the top 20 wealthiest countries, we live in a region home to some of the world’s poorest people,” Mr Floyd said.
“This budget confirms Australia’s position as one of the least generous countries in the OECD.”
Mr Floyd said Australia’s aid program reached millions of vulnerable people and communities around the world.
Yet the proposed cuts will slice funding for programs in Asia and the Middle East by 40 per cent and 70 per cent for Saharan Africa.
The Assembly also urged the Federal Government to announce a credible timetable to allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to Australia’s overseas aid program commensurate with our international obligations.