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Caritas slams aid budget


The Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, Caritas Australia, has slammed last night’s federal budget, saying the Government has failed to meet local and international expectations to commit to an increase in aid funding.

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Caritas Australia CEO Paul O’Callaghan said it was “disappointing” that the Government had rejected a strong recommendation from fellow OECD governments for it to reverse the dramatic reduction in its contribution to international aid and development of the past four years.

Instead the budget revealed that money from the international aid program would go towards funding infrastructure projects such as an undersea high speed internet cable to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

“We really hoped that the Government in this budget, given that they are on the brink of getting a surplus, would actually at least indicate they are planning to grow, develop and restore the aid program to what it once was,” Mr O’Callaghan told The Southern Cross.

“We are not a poor country and we shouldn’t treat this as an area for making savings.

“After the major aid funding cuts since 2014, the decision to further reduce the aid program by $141 million over four years has placed our wealthy country in its most insular period of international engagement in 60 years.”

Mr O’Callaghan said most Australians believed their country should be playing a part in helping those in need around the world.

“We have values in our country, it’s not just if you’re religious, and one of those is connected to the idea of giving people a hand, a fair go. We’ve had this long history going back to the 1950s of being a generous and compassionate nation contributing in the world.

“Australians are still compassionate and caring and if we can afford it they would like us to be going back to where we were, which wasn’t excessive spending but heading in the direction of being a real contributor.”

However, Mr O’Callaghan said Australia’s declining level of commitment meant there was a possibility it could slide to the bottom of the list of 28 OECD nations for its spend on international aid and development.

“Australia has become much more insular. We used to be part of the top ten of the wealthy countries in helping to influence things and now we’re seen pretty widely as not much of a player.”

He said it was now time for strong leadership and a bipartisan approach to effect change in this area.

“Caritas Australia urges a renewed bipartisan commitment to aid that would re-instate Australia as a global leader in helping end poverty, tackle climate change and promote justice for all.”


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