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Bishop's corporatised aid plan set to damage communities

The Greens say the Coalition government's plan for overseas aid announced today is reminiscent of the discredited aid policies of the 1980s with Australian companies set to profit at the expense of impoverished communities in the Asia Pacific region.

"Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has corporatised Australia's overseas aid program to such a degree it could cost lives, while opening the door to corrupt practices," said Greens aid spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.

"Aid for trade and massive spending on large scale infrastructure projects represents a far reaching realignment of our aid program towards Australia's interests over that of aid recipient countries and communities.

"Most of the nations that receive our aid do not have a strong private sector. It will be foreign multinationals or Australian companies that will pick up the infrastructure contracts.

"Corporatised aid opens the door to increased corruption as aid money can be used to fast track projects particularly in the extractive industries.

"This policy shift on top of last month's $7.6 billion budget cut in the aid program sends a damaging message to neighbouring countries.

"Our aid money has saved lives and provided good health and opportunities for millions of people in low income countries.

"Infant mortality rates in PNG are 12 times higher than in Australia. Women in PNG and Indonesia are dying while giving birth at a rate 35 times higher than women in this country.

"Health, sanitation and education programs remain priorities in the Indo-Pacific region.

"All this is now at risk because the Coalition sees the world in terms of business opportunities," Senator Rhiannon said.

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