Most Australians would say that, as a nation, we’re one of the most generous nations in the world.
Sadly, that’s not backed up by the facts. Australia spends just 33 cents out of every $100 in helping the world’s poor. Britain spends 50 cents in every $100. In fact, we rank 16th out of 23 OECD countries in the proportion of overseas aid spent. Yet we were one of the few countries to escape relatively unscathed from the Global Financial Crisis.
Yesterday, one of our most respected leaders in the field of social justice, the head or World Vision, Tim Costello, described Australia’s performance in delivering overseas aid as “shameful”.
He called for both the Federal Government and the Opposition to ensure that our nation adheres to the bipartisan promise of reaching 50 cents per $100 (0.5%) by 2015. He noted that Britain has already reached this goal and will reach 0.7% in two years.
Mr Costello pointed out that, apart from humanitarian motivations, at the very least, “enlightened self interest” should dictate that we do more. We are situated among some of the world’s poorest nations, they play a vital role in our economy, indeed they were the very countries who played a significant role in allowing us to escape the GFC.
Mr Costello named PNG and the Solomons, along with Indonesia as countries we should be doing far more to help.
He referred to a health clinic in PNG where pregnant women were forced to provide their own buckets of water to give birth because sanitation was so lacking. Yet, he added: "You can literally see Australian islands from that health clinic's shore, which says to you, what's the moral significance of this piece of sea?"
In support of his argument, Mr Costello noted that our neighbours, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and PNG had more people with malaria than anywhere else in the world. He claims we must strive harder to help these countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals, which have halved the numbers of children dying each day from preventable diseases.
Let’s hope our government doesn’t use the excuse of having to bring the budget into the black to cut back on our overseas aid. Let’s hope they show some moral courage.
If Britain, which has been so badly affected by the GFC, can not only maintain its 50 cents level but strive for 70 cents, surely we can match or better them.
How can we live in the Lucky Country and do any less?