If only More Joyous: Australia’s aid budget

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Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs...
Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia (CMAG Deputy Chair) (Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat)

John Singleton arrived to the More Joyous Inquiry today, and was described by the waiting pack of journalists as a “rockstar”. Everyone had a bit of a joke, and John Singleton batted away the flattering attention. A short time later, Tom Waterhouse who seems to always be smiling regardless of the situation, arrived with no comment. The camera and journalists were in force, and hungry for news.

There is a curious video on this link from today’s proceedings. It is a shame that this short of exposure isn’t given to issues of a little more substance. It is like watching an unbearable pantomime. If only it really was a comedy…:

Meanwhile Bob Carr, the Australian Foreign Minister was speaking on ABC Radio confirming weeks of speculation that Labor’s goal of increasing aid spending to 0.5 per cent of gross national income has been delayed for another year. The Federal Budget will be delivered this week in Canberra, and is going to be stretched significantly into a deficit. Bob Carr explained this matter-of-factly:

It simply reflects the reality that you can’t borrow money to spend on aid. (Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister)

Australia is now the third largest recipient of our aid budget after Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, with the majority of the money being spent back on ourselves catering for the needs of asylum seekers intercepted by boat.

Far from a comment about the politicisation of aid, this is more a pragmatic reflection of what can be expected moving forward. Not everything the Government promises will it be able to deliver. There are no surprises there, and while it is disappointing, it is also reality.

How will this affect the Millennium Development Goals? Some advocates for aid, such as Tim Costello will say that it will cost the lives of over a million people across the next four years. While this might be partly true as an assumption, it shows that we need to look beyond government assistance alone to combat these problems.

This is not the first time governments have failed to deliver on their promises with aid. In 2010 at the United Nations General Assembly, many governments pointed to the recent global financial crisis are behind their inability to make progress with combatting poverty.

The rise of philanthropy has been of great significance to combatting extreme poverty in the last decade. But that is neither a silver bullet nor the answer. The answer must be found beyond a reliance on aid and philanthropy.

It calls for intervention for many people, including people just like you and me, but not necessarily by throwing loose coins into buckets or being assaulted by the Charity Muggers at the local train station. No, it is time that we looked to more innovative solutions by bridging what already exists and helping through our networks to bring that to scale.

This is the idea behind the 10 City Bridge Run, and by working together we can make an enormous difference to issues such as the delivery of child survival.

It would be nice if things were indeed More Joyous for the aid budget, but that simply is not that case. All the while, we are distracted by circuses such as the tedious and banal “he said/she said” from colourful racing identities in front of an insatiable media pack. Nothing joyous about that. There are more important issues which deserve great attention. And that too, sadly, is reality.


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