Oxfam welcomes first step to getting aid budget back on track

Oxfam Australia

Commenting on the federal budget, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said:

“In a world wracked by increasing inequality exacerbated by conflict, COVID-19 and climate change, this budget is a promising first step towards re-engaging with our global community.

“After years of cuts and neglect, we are heartened to see this government revive our ailing aid budget, with an additional $1.4 billion over four years. We also welcome the announcement of $30 million to go towards the Australian NGO Cooperation Program over the next four years. This funding allows organisations like Oxfam to deliver real long-term development gains – and in the wake of the pandemic we have a lot of ground to make up.

“The government’s refocusing of the development program around gender is also a positive shift made in response to calls from the sector to target those most in need. This includes the reinstatement of the 80% target for gender-targeted programming and a new requirement that design of programs worth over $3 million must include gender equality as a significant objective.

“Despite these announcements, Australia’s aid budget still remains stubbornly at just 0.2% of GNI – well below the recommended 0.7% target. We can and must do better. What’s more, while the slightly widened footprint of our aid program to include significantly more funds for South-East Asia is pleasing, we must recognise the responsibilities we hold beyond the region, as well.

“That’s why it’s unfortunate to see the government fail to increase humanitarian spending at a time when the needs across the globe have never been greater. While the government announced $15 million in September to support a response to the deadly hunger crisis spreading through communities in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, it’s distressing to see nothing further committed in the budget. Our sector is calling on the government to contribute $150 million to tackle the looming famine and hunger crises threatening millions of lives. Their current contribution falls well short of what is required to avert a catastrophe.

“The budget showed the Australian Government is serious about rebuilding our reputation when it comes to funding climate action, but there is still much work to do. Committed funding included $500 million in concessional loans towards infrastructure projects in the Pacific, which was counted as part of our climate financing commitments – this is not what we hoped to see. Our climate finance should not be plunging the countries least responsible for the climate crisis into further debt. Australia has a good record as a donor that prioritises grants and adaptation funding for climate and we would like to see this continue.

“Developing countries, including our Pacific family, are now calling on high emitting countries like Australia to account for the damage our carbon emissions have already caused by providing loss and damage funding for changes the globe cannot adapt to or mitigate. This government must show we are serious about getting our relationships in the region back on track by backing in this call at the upcoming COP27 meetings in Egypt. This should be in addition to an extra $1 billion in climate finance – we did the sums and found we are currently contributing just one-tenth of our fair share in this space.

“Domestically, there have been some positive steps but more can be done to improve outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples. The overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prisons is this country’s great shame. The government’s injection of significant funding to combat this is a positive step, however now leadership on law reform and work with the states and territories to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 is critical.”

/Public Release.