Greens spokesperson for overseas aid Senator Lee Rhiannon introduced into the Senate this afternoon a private members bill that would ring-fence the aid budget from further cuts and keep Australia on track to give more and better aid.
The Overseas Aid (Millennium Development Goals) Bill sets out a clear year-on-year timeline to ensure Australia meets the global target to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) on aid by 2020. The Greens bill excludes spending on onshore processing of asylum-seekers and military objectives from this aid target and establishes a Commissioner on Aid Effectiveness to act as an independent watchdog to ensure aid is spent effectively.
"The case for increasing overseas aid is clear: aid money, spent effectively, can make a difference to people's lives" said Senator Rhiannon.
"In the last year, both Labor and the Coalition have back-pedalled from a bipartisan commitment to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015. Federal Labor has sucked over $700 million from the aid budget to pay for onshore detention and the Australian Defence Force have been caught out misallocating $190 million in defence spending as aid.
"This bill would require the Foreign Affairs Minister to report to parliament annually on whether that year's target has been reached and if not the Minister must set out the steps being taken to ensure Australia's aid gets back on track.
"Australia should be able to proudly display its credentials as a generous donor willing to pull its weight when it comes to poverty alleviation. It is shameful that our aid contributions wallow well behind countries such as Britain, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
"My office has received hundreds of messages of support for this bill. The Australian community gives generously from their own pockets and there is strong support for the Australian government to do likewise" said Senator Rhiannon.