Caritas welcomes increased aid promise

Sunda Strait
The scene after one Indonesia community was struck by the 22 December tsunami. Photo: Las Harfa, Caritas Australia

Caritas Australia has welcomed the Labor Party’s election promise to increase the value of Australia’s foreign aid program each year it is in government.

Chief Executive Officer Paul O’Callaghan said such a move makes sense for a country that should be playing a leading role in its region.

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“Giving aid is a quintessentially Australian thing to do yet years of cuts to the program have already seen spending fall dramatically,” he said.

“We hope that along with an increase to aid, political parties will also look to lift the profile of the aid program and the good work that Australian aid does in the world.”

In December at its national conference the Labor party agreed to lift its foreign aid spending each year from its first budget up to a target of 0.5 per cent of gross national income.

The current federal budget has capped foreign aid at 0.23 per cent of the gross national income.

For Mr O’Callaghan the Labor Party’s announcement also has the potential to usher in a new era of bipartisanship on foreign aid.

“We know that the world today is a complex place,” he said.

“Caritas believes that this ALP announcement could be a pathway to renewed bipartisanship on aid as Australia looks to tackle regional and global challenges of poverty, migration and climate change,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Last year a Lowy Institute Poll found that Australians vastly overestimate the size of the country’s aid program.

The average Australian believes about 14 per cent of the federal budget is spent on overseas aid and that it should actually invest about 10 percent. The actual figure is less than one per cent (0.8 per cent) of the federal budget each year.

Caritas Australia is the international aid and development agency of the Catholic Church.