On a day when 1000 young people gathered outside the Australian Parliament to rally their elected representatives to commit to ending extreme poverty, it is disappointing that inside the parliament Labor and the Coalition voted against taking any firm action to do so, the Australian Greens said today.
Labor and the Coalition both voted against a Greens motion to protect the overseas aid budget from further budget cuts; and then the Minister for Foreign Affairs could not provide a date for when it would commit 0.7% of GNI to overseas development assistance.
"Today we've got nothing but hot air from the Government on its commitments to foreign aid." Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said today
"In a remarkable display of double-speak we saw the Minister for Foreign Affairs grandstand on how Australia is spending its foreign aid budget, while offering no date for delivery of its promise to commit 0.7% of GNI to overseas development assistance to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
"I have also asked the Minister to provide transparency in this year's aid budget on climate financing - which he refused to do.
"The Minister also refused to explain why he has taken $50 million out of the Pacific aid budget, $10 million out of East Timor, and $6 million out of Laos to fund offshore processing, in spite of lauding these programs to a crowd of 1000 young people this morning.
"We are a rich country, let us be a compassionate and generous country too," said Senator Milne.
Greens spokesperson on overseas aid, Senator Lee Rhiannon said:
"It is clear the major parties are loath to commit to meeting the United Nations' target which asks developed nations to devote 0.7 per cent of GNI to foreign aid by 2015," said Senator Rhiannon.
"Norway, Sweden, Denmark met the UN target several years ago and Britain and Ireland are well on their way. Why is it that Australia only now contributes a measly 0.35 per cent, ranking us a lowly 13th of 23 OECD countries?
"Australians rightly expect our overseas aid budget will be dedicated to ending poverty in countries where people do it tougher than us. It is not a pie for the government to divvy up and distribute to meet other needs at whim."