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'Reprioritising' Australia's aid budget



In 17 December 2012, Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that the government would report up to $375 million as support for asylum seekers waiting to have their claims heard in Australia. In effect this meant that $375.1 million would be diverted from the overall aid budget to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. The reallocation represents an effective cut of 7.3 per cent to other elements of the aid budget. The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research also suffered cuts of 7.6 per cent to their respective aid budgets. Details of the revised Budget Estimate were released in the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements 2012-13 (pp.102–105).


The humanitarian and emergency response budget suffered a major cut of over $70 million and is now estimated to be $208.2 million. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund too was cut by $7 million, down to $9 million.

During the Additional Estimates hearing for AusAID held on 14 February 2013, AusAID’s Director General, Peter Baxter, stated that AusAID would be releasing ‘further details on the precise programs’ that would be affected (p.79). This information is now available. Outlined below are details of the impact of the revised budget on the programs of Australia’s regional neighbours, Indonesia, PNG and the Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Details of the impact on other programs are available from AusAID.

The aid allocations for PNG, Nauru, Palau and Niue were excluded from reprioritisation.

Indonesia: reduced by $33.5 million to $540.1 million. Changes include:
  • deferral of payments for school construction grants from March 2013 to July 2013 ($23.1 million)
  • deferral of funding for new Women in Leadership program from 2012–13 to 2013–14 ($2.0 million) and
  • cut to funds yet to be committed to climate change projects ($8.4 million).
Pacific regional aid program: Reduced by $14.5 million to $128.7 million. Changes include:
  • deferral of opening of another Asia Pacific Technical College (APTC) and related costs ($5.7 million)
  • rescheduling of payments for activities under the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility ($7.9 million) including the Kiribati Roads Rehabilitation Project ($5.0 million) and
  • other regional program activities ($500 000).
Cook Islands: reduced by $310 000 to $4 million. This means the deferral of some activities under the cooperation program with New Zealand.
 
Federated States of Micronesia: reduced by $500 000 to $2.8 million, by deferring funding for a regional International Organisation for Migration (IOM) project into future years.
 
Fiji: reduced by $3.1 million to $53.8 million. Changes include:
  • deferral of 14 Australia Awards and 20 Australia Awards Pacific Scholarships ($1.0 million)
  • deferral of funding to infrastructure projects in the health and education sector and delays to school grants until 2013–14 ($1.1 million) and
  • deferral of funding for the Community Development Program until 2013–14 ($600 000) and reduction in funding for operational costs ($400 000).
Kiribati: reduced by $2.8 million to $26.9 million. This comprises deferral of payments to 2013–14 for the infrastructure components of:
  • the Technical and Vocational and Training Sector Strengthening Program ($1.25 million) and
  • the Kiribati Education Improvement Project ($1.55 million).
Marshall Islands: reduced by $200 000 to $4.2 million. This means deferral of funding to a regional IOM disaster risk reduction project into future financial years.
 
Samoa: reduced by $3.1 million to $43.5 million. This comprises deferral of payments to 2013–14 for:
  • a World Bank Trust Fund for a multi-donor health sector program ($2.65 million)
  • new activities in the law and justice program ($250 000) and
  • engagement of long term advisers in the governance sector ($200 000).
Following Cyclone Evan in December 2012, $2.25 million was reallocated to the Samoa program in January 2013 for emergency relief and recovery and a new activity to improve the lives of people with a disability. Consequently, the net overall reduction is $850 000.
 
Solomon Islands: reduced by $7.7 million to $81.8 million. This includes deferral of funding till 2013–14 for:
  • rural development program co-financed with the World Bank ($2.5 million)
  • the Skills Sub-Sector Education Program ($1.25 million) and Gender Initiative ($1.5 million)
  • Managing Urbanisation planning study in collaboration with the World Bank ($500 000) and
  • Design of the Civil Society Program ($200 000).
In addition, the budget for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was reduced by $2.4 million.
 
Tokelau: reduced by $415 000 to $185 000. The cut is in the funding to the Tokelau International Trust Fund.
 
Tonga: reduced by $2.5 million to $32.1 million. This includes:
  • deferral of payments for programs under the Tonga Transport Consolidation Project’s future financial years ($500 000) and
  • a cut to funds allocated but not yet committed for climate change adaptation projects ($2 million).
Tuvalu: reduced by $1.5 million to $9.8 million. This means the cargo handling and wharf safety component of a ‘ship to shore’ maritime project will now be funded by another donor.
 
Vanuatu: reduced by $13.7 million to $59.8 million. This includes:
  • deferral of first payment to the Port Vila Urban Development Project due to delays in its commencement ($8.7 million)
  • reduction of funding to the Vanuatu Australia Police Project following its suspension by the Vanuatu Government ($4.0 million) and
  • a cut to funds allocated but not yet committed for climate change adaption projects ($1.0 million).