A smaller ‘Indo-Pacific’: more detail on Australia’s 2015–16 aid cuts

Where we give aid— Australian ODA by partner country and region for 2016–17 

Image source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (click hyperlink to enlarge)

In the wake of further reductions to Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs in the 2016–17 Budget, recent government responses to Questions on Notice (QoN) from Senate Additional Estimates hearings reveal more about where previous cuts have been applied. The 2015–16 Budget saw a cut in ODA of almost $1 billion, the largest singlecut to annual funding in the history of Australia’s aid program. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) response to QoN no.173 released on 5 May 2016, details the associated cuts to existing aid agreements for country and regional programs—that is, ‘agreements that have been affected, cancelled, re-scoped or altered as a result of the 2015–16 aid budget’. DFAT notes in its response that these figures are accurate as at 11 February 2016 and that some agreements are not included as ‘they are still under negotiation’. The agreements that have been cut are listed in the table below. 

The table excludes agreements where payments have been re-phased with no cuts. It also does not include funding reductions to global (e.g. scholarships, volunteers) and multilateral (e.g. United Nations, global health and education funds) programs.

This extra detail largely confirms the information contained in country and regional allocations in the 2015–16 Budget.  That is, while PNG and the Pacific have been spared from large cuts in the current (and previous) financial year, large swathes of the wider ‘Indo-Pacific’ have borne the brunt of significant cuts to existing programs. Indonesia makes up well over a third of the cuts, amounting to more than the next three (Myanmar, Timor Leste, Vietnam) combined. Of the top ten country and regional programs that had existing agreements cut, eight are in the Indo-Pacific. Cambodia remains a notable exception.

The figures also confirm recent analysis by the Development Policy Centre that shows that since 2013, health and education programs have suffered the largest cuts. In dollar terms, well over half of the $287 million in cuts to existing programs are either in the health (including water and sanitation) or education sectors. The other cuts are spread across governance, rural development, civil society and gender programs. 

As noted in the Parliamentary Library’s Budget Review 2016–17, country and regional allocations have largely been stabilised in the 2016–17 Budget, despite a further $224 million in cuts next financial year. As a result, these allocations are not likely to be reduced further. Nor are they likely to grow, however, given other potential budget pressures such as additional climate change assistance and future multilateral payments. 


Funding impact over the life of agreement ($m)

Total ($m)


  • Nationwide Professional Development for Education Personnel (72.0)*
  • Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Pro-Poor Policy – The Knowledge Sector Initiatives (33.5)
  • IndoBeef (8.3)
  • Australia Indonesia Partnership for Health Systems Strengthening (6.5)*
  • HIV Cooperation Program for Indonesia (2.0)*
  • Australia Indonesia Partnership for Maternal and Neonatal Health (1.3)*
  • Management of the Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction Program (1.0)
  • Rapidly Expanding access to Care for HIV (REACH) Program in Tanah Papua (0.250)*



  • Support to Improve Maternal and Child Health, Communicable Diseases and Strengthen the Health Systems (53.67)*
  • Myanmar Education Consortium (4.5)*
  • DFAT-ACIAR multidisciplinary research program for food security (1.2)


Timor Leste

  • Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (11.2)*
  • Governance for Development (10.5)
  • Program to Support the National Program for Village Development (7.56)
  • Ministry of Finance Direct Budget Support (2.0)
  • Ending Violence Against Women in Timor-Leste (2.0)



  • World Bank Trust Fund (12.49)
  • Flood and Drought Risk Management Project (3.97)
  • Vietnam Climate Innovation Centre (3.0)
  • Water and sanitation (2.0)*
  • Anti-corruption program (1.06)


Palestinian Territories

  • Australia-Palestinian Authority Partnership Arrangement (14.0)



  • Social Protection and Sustainable Livelihoods (3.2)
  • Laos Australia Learning Development Facility (2.1)*
  • Basic Education School Meals (2.0)*
  • Basic Education Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (1.2)*


Asia regional

  • Australia Mekong Non-Government Organisation Engagement Platform (5.2)
  • Support to the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (0.15)



  • Transparency, Responsiveness, Accountability and Citizen Engagement Program (TRACE), Zimbabwe (5.0)



  • Citizen Engagement for Social Service Delivery Project III (3.46)
  • Pakistan Australia Prevention of Avoidable Blindness (1.0)*



  • Basic Education Sector Transformation (BEST) Program – Classroom Construction Support (3.0)*



  • Australia Mongolia Extractives Program (2.99)


Pacific regional

  • State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (1.92)
  • Support to the Pacific Legal Information System (0.173)
  • Pacific Benchmarking Education Quality for Results (0.11)*



  • DFAT-IFC South Asia Sustainable Development Partnership (0.60)


South Asia regional

  • Climate-resilient farming systems in the Eastern Gangetic Plains (0.50)


Africa regional

  • The Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme - Resource Facility (0.293)





Table compiled by Parliamentary Library based on table included in DFAT response to QoN no. 173

*Health or education program 


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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