Dissenting report by Coalition Senators
Coalition Senators welcome the steps taken by the Australian Government
to stabilise the aid budget at approximately $5 billion, increasing by the
consumer price index.
At approximately $5 billion per annum, Australia is one of the ten
largest bilateral donors in the OECD.
The Coalition went to the 2013 election with a mandate to stabilise the
budget. We note the decision to reduce the rate of growth in aid spending is a consequence
of the deteriorating budgetary situation caused by the former Labor Government.
As described in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2013-14:
The budget position has deteriorated significantly since the
2013 Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO).
Budget deficits totalling $123 billion are now expected
across the forward estimates, with a $47 billion deficit expected in 2013-14 —
3.0 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Without policy change and taking no remedial action, budget
deficits would be projected in each and every year to 2023-24.
The Australian Government's commitment to deliver an aid program that is
both predictable and affordable stands in contrast to the approach taken by the
former Labor Government.
In its submission to the inquiry, Treasury stated that:
In the 2012-13 Budget... the former Government deferred its
growth target by one year, pushing the 0.5 per cent target back to 2016-17. The
interim targets were also deferred, delivering $2.9 billion in savings over the
four years from 2012-13 to 2015-16.
In the 2013-14 Budget... the former Government deferred the 0.5
per cent target by an additional year to 2017-18. This measure delivered $1.9
billion in savings over three years from 2014-15 to 2016-17.
In the subsequent Budget update... the 0.5 per cent target was
retained for 2017-18, but the rate of growth was slowed in the lead-up to this
year. This measure delivered $0.9 billion in savings over the two years from
2015-16 to 2016-17.
The cumulative savings delivered to the budget from the
deferrals of the aid target and slowing growth in the aid program from the
former Government totalled $5.7 billion.
The previous Labor Government also reprioritised $375.1
million of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2012-13, towards funding
some of the costs of supporting refugees in Australia.
The decision to divert aid funding for the on-shore processing of asylum
seekers made Australia the third largest country recipient of its own aid
A consistent message of aid practitioners is that reliability of funding
is crucial to the development program. As stated by the Australian Council for
International Development (ACFID) at the public hearing for the inquiry:
Mr Purcell: ...predictability is everything in effectiveness of
expenditure of taxpayers' money in overseas aid and development, and sudden
changes in the middle of the financial year do not lead to predictability or
Coalition Senators welcome the Government's efforts to be a more
predictable and reliable partner, and to honour agreements with international
Leading commentators on development assistance have noted the benefits
of the Government's responsible and predictable approach to the aid budget.
This approach has strengthened Australia's ability to maintain international
development priorities. As stated by the Australian National University's
Development Policy Centre at the public hearing for the inquiry:
Mr Davies: ... there are some substantial benefits that flow
from predictability and stability in the aid budget and we very much welcome
the strong affirmation from the foreign minister when she spoke at the ANU last
week that the budget will be maintained in real terms at just over $5 billion
for the next several years.
Coalition Senators welcome the Government's focus on international
economic development as the best way to reduce poverty. This has been clearly
and repeatedly stated by key Government Ministers as the purpose of the aid
Australia has received international support for its revised focus on
economic growth and poverty reduction. As Erik Solheim, the Chairman of the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance
Committee wrote in The Australian on 17 January 2014:
Mr Solheim: Julie Bishop should be applauded for focusing on
the importance of economic development. Development assistance is good, economic
growth is even better.
Further, key members of Australia's non-government organisations have
welcomed the Government's ongoing commitment to poverty reduction. During the
public hearing for the inquiry, the Executive Director of ACFID stated at the
public hearing for the inquiry:
Mr Purcell: We have welcomed the minister's commitment to focusing
on poverty alleviation.
The Business Community have also welcome Australia's revised approach,
as the Business Council of Australia noted in their submission to the inquiry:
Mr Tarrant: The Business Council of Australia agrees with the
current government's stated aim for the aid program to prioritise the promotion
of economic development, with a focus on aid for trade.
Sustained economic growth will have the greatest impact on
eliminating poverty and improving living standards in developing countries. An
important element of sustainable economic growth is the promotion of open
markets that attract investment and enable people to grow their businesses, to
increase their employment levels, to innovate and to compete.
Coalition Senators applaud the Government's efforts to improve the
performance culture of the aid program. In April 2011, the Independent Review
of Aid Effectiveness (April 2011) Recommendation 39 stated that the program
must achieve minimum standards before the budget increased further – the former
Labor Government did not adopt this recommendation.
Coalition Senators recommend that the Government implement
Recommendation 39 of the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness, and further
strengthen the aid program's fraud management controls and systems.
A strict performance culture should be applied to all development
partners who should be selected on the basis of their ability to deliver value
for money and their capacity to contribute to the achievement of the Government's
The Australian Government's commitment to aid effectiveness has been
widely lauded by the development community. In their submission to the inquiry
the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Union Aid Abroad noted that:
A focus on measurable outcomes, integrity and rigorous
benchmarks will ensure greater value for money and effectiveness in the aid
program. Scrutiny and accountability should be demanded and applied across the
whole sector, including NGO, bilateral and business sector partners.
The Coalition Government deliver aid against its stated policy
objectives, including to promote Australia's national interests through
contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction.
The Coalition Government implements Recommendation 39 of the Independent
Review of Aid Effectiveness by implementing rigorous performance benchmarks.
The Government further strengthen the aid program's fraud management
controls and systems.
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