Australia's table is 'groaning with food' and we must share it: Costello

Calls to repair Australia’s foreign aid, after Federal Budget disappointment

Australia’s table is “groaning with food” but the Federal Government is being “mean, harsh and cruel”, says Tim Costello.

The chief advocate for World Vision and executive director of Micah Australia – a coalition of Christian organisations working to reduce world poverty – Costello expressed his dismay over the Australia’s lack of leadership when it comes to foreign aid.

“Foreign aid saves lives, it protects women and girls and gives them an education.” – Tim Costello

While last night’s Federal Budget did not see further cuts to the foreign aid budget, it confirmed that foreign aid spending would remain frozen at $4.2 billion. Indexation is expected to recommence in 2022-23.

Australia’s foreign aid commitment sits at a record low of 0.22 per cent of Gross National Income (22 cents for every $100 of GNI). Foreign aid has seen deep cuts since 2013, when the Coalition walked away from a bilateral commitment to lift aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GNI. Without indexation, and with a growing economy, the percentage of GNI will continue to fall.

Costello says it’s time to begin the repair process.

“We believe this budget has revenue receipts rolling in, and the poorest should not be excluded from that revenue just because they don’t vote.”

“Foreign aid saves lives. It protects women and girls and gives them an education.”

In April, an OECD report ranked Australia’s relative generosity on foreign aid at 19th of 29 wealthy countries. The same month, a government minister said there was no public support for increases to Australia’s foreign aid spending.

Costello disputes that statement, saying Australians remain “very generous in their private giving” but are misinformed about our spending at a national level.

“It’s at the government level that we have been mean, harsh and cruel. And the government gets away with that, because most Australians believe we’re giving far more than we really are – close to 10% of GNI, when it’s actually 0.22%. They’re confused.

“We have to educate Australians, but the government should reflect our desire for generosity.

“This should be bipartisan – Coalition and Labor should agree that this is who Australia is and this is what our values are.”

Micah Australia hosted a banquet on the lawn of Parliament House this morning, calling for a fairer deal for the world’s poor under a banner saying, “Plenty to share”.

Micah’s campaign director, Matt Darvas said: “In Budget week, we talk about winners and losers. But we must recognise that simply being born in Australia, we are all winners.”

“We are falling to the slogan of “Make Australia great”, only looking out for ourselves and our own. But we are so blessed here and we have the means to be generous.”

The banquet fed people from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds and faiths. They gathered with community leaders and politicians including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to discuss what more can be done to advocate on behalf of the world’s poor and start re-educating Australia on the need to increase foreign aid once more.

Costello says his hope is that politicians will see a table “groaning with food” and recognise that “Australia can be a blessing to other nations who are in terrible poverty.”

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