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“Australian aid must be innovative and accountable”: inquiry into Indo-Pacific foreign aid

Australia’s aid program in the Indo-Pacific will be examined by a parliamentary inquiry to determine its strategic effectiveness and outcomes

Australia will need to boost its aid in the Indo-Pacific region to maintain a geo-political influence, a parliamentary inquiry is expected to be told.

Aid charity groups, including Save the Children and Oxfam, will be giving evidence at a hearing with the Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee to examine the strategic outcomes of Australia’s aid program.

Chair of the Sub-Committee, Chris Crewther MP, said the Sub-Committee welcomed the opportunity to discuss Australia’s aid program with advocates and communities.

“The Sub-Committee looks forward to exploring how Australia aid is supporting countries in our region, and examining ways to ensure that our aid dollars are helping our aid partners build strong, prosperous and sustainable local economies.”

It comes as research shows Australia remains the biggest donor to developing Pacific nations. The Lowly Institute’s Pacific aid map shows eight years of foreign aid given to island nations and Australia is leading with more than $6.5 billion spent.

However, China has overtaken New Zealand to sit second.

In its submission to the inquiry, Save the Children said: “Australia’s future economic growth is tied to the prosperity and stability of our region. We therefore cannot afford to lose geopolitical influence in shaping development outcomes in our region.”

The foreign aid charity group called for the Australian government to maintain a workforce with the right skills and experience, with effective policy being more important than policy development with a different set of capabilities.

It suggests adopting the right-size overseas program, adopting a goal of reducing inequality, improving investments and improving transparency.

In Oxfam’s submission, the charity group said Australia needs a generous and stable aid program that bolsters capacity and responsibility of states to build resilience.

“Australia’s aid program should aim to eradicate, not just reduce poverty. To do that, Australian aid must be innovative, accountable to people living in poverty and backed by strong bipartisan commitment,” Oxfam’s submission read.

The federal government allocated $4.2 billion to its total aid budget in 2018/19. After this, the aid budget is expected to hit an all-time low in the 2021/22 budget with 19 cents in every $100 of gross national income.

The Refugee Council of Australia is calling for overseas aid to be increased by 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

In its submission to the parliamentary inquiry, the Refugee Council of Australia said: “The Australian government should ensure greater strategic alignment between Australia’s Aid and Humanitarian Programs and international diplomacy to enhance refugee protection and address the drivers of displacement.”

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