Sydney, Australia. The Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull recently met with US President Donald Trump and many are wondering if Trump’s ideas of slashing foreign aid have not washed off onto Australia, as the government announced massive cuts in aid across the South Pacific region.
The Australian government has announced it will cut overseas aid by $223 million USD, with international aid agencies warning it means the country is becoming more “insular and isolated.”
The Liberal-National Coalition announced its fourth consecutive reduction in the country’s international aid contribution as part of the Budget 2017-18, adding to a total of $8.1 billion USD in cuts over the next few years. Australian aid organisations have responded with resounding condemnation, with many noting the UN’s announcement in March that the world was facing its largest humanitarian crisis since it was founded in 1945.
“We are committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable in the Indo-Pacific region where we will invest over 90 per cent of our bilateral and regional aid,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in a budget summary released by the Australian government.
The Australians cut 40 percent of their aid to Indonesia in 2015, previously the country’s largest aid program, shortly after a diplomatic arguement with its northern neighbor. Papua New Guinea is now the biggest beneficiary of foreign aid funding from Australia.
Australia’s government has justified the cuts due to a supposed “budget crisis,” despite 26 years of continuous economic growth and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
“Trump has made clear he wants to cut the US aid budget by close to 28 per cent. Congress is fighting this but in Australia, the administration here have beaten him to it.” As one of the world’s richest nations, Australia’s contribution “to assist the world’s most vulnerable people, is less than half what it should have been,” said Tim Costello a NGO official from World Vision International.