Greens call for foreign aid boost

The Federal Government is facing calls to increase its foreign aid budget, despite having downgraded its aid target for the next financial year.

Speaking at a forum in the Brisbane electorate of Bonner last week, Greens candidate Darryl Rosin and Make Poverty History national co-chair Andrew Hewett called on the Government to increase their aid target to 0.7 per cent of Australia’s gross national income (GNI).

Australia is now committed to contributing 0.5 per cent of GNI to aid by 2015 in accordance with its obligations under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Mr Rosin said the Greens would work towards an increase of 0.2 per cent if it gained the balance of power after the election.

“This is the goal we want to reach, we want to reach 0.7 per cent by 2015,” he said

The call comes in spite of this month’s budget, which showed a reduction in the Government’s aid goal as a percentage of GNI for the coming year.

Make Poverty History national co-chair Andrew Hewett said a change to the way GNI is calculated has inflated Australia’s GNI by 4 per cent, which has increased the total the Government has to pay to reach its aid target.

As a result of the change, the Government has reduced its aid contribution from a forecast 0.34 per cent to 0.33 per cent of GNI in 2009-10, despite providing an extra $500 million in aid over the financial year.

Labor MP for Bonner Kerry Rea said even though the cost of providing 0.5% of Australia’s GNI had increased, the government was continued to maintaining the target under the new calculation.

“The point I’m trying to stress is that we are committed to the 0.5 and we are increasing money in terms of your dollars as we get there,” she said.

Mr Hewett said the recalculation would mean that the aid budget of Australia would double to $8.9 billion over the next five years.

“The goal posts have shifted, but basically the shifting of the goalposts is a good news story,” he said.

He said the figure of 0.5 per cent now had bipartisan support, as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had recently committed to matching the Government’s aid targets in a speech to the Lowy Institute.

“My challenge I suppose for both parties is how they’re going to differentiate themselves from each other. Hence the point about moving for 0.7 and setting a timetable for reaching 0.7,” he said.

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