[Anglican Communion News Service] The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, has joined the leaders of Australia’s 12 Christian denominations in a letter published in The Australian newspaper to government Treasurer Scott Morrison, in which they call on the federal government not to proceed with the scheduled $224 million Australian Dollars (approximately £119 million GBP) cut to the country’s aid budget.
The Church leaders voiced their concern that a failure to act now will see the aid budget fall to its lowest ever level in Australian history.
“This is an unprecedented action from leaders within Australia’s Christian denominations, instigated by a scheduled further cut to the aid budget,” World Vision CEO, Tim Costello told The Melbourne Anglican. “Coming on top of more than $11 billion in cuts to aid since coming to office, this will be the fourth time the government has targeted Australian aid for cuts.”
Mr Costello also noted British Prime Minister David Cameron’s vow to never “balance the books on the backs of the poorest”.
Since 1970, the UN has advocated that countries allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for overseas development income. This call was repeated in the Millennium Development Goals.
Despite this, according to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) only five countries managed this in 2014: Denmark (0.86 per cent), Luxembourg (1.06 per cent), Norway (1.00 per cent), Sweden (1.09 per cent), and the UK (0.7 per cent).
In the same year, Australia spent $4,382 million USD (approximately £3,004 million GBP) on overseas development assistance – amounting to 0.31 per cent of GDP.
Ben Thurley, the national coordinator of the Micah Australia coalition, said that more than ten million Australians identify with the signatory churches and denominations and are united by their belief in Jesus, who calls us to “love our neighbour.”
He said former Prime Minister John Howard had been the first Australian prime minister to make a timetabled commitment to increase Australian aid, and that this had been a bipartisan position for almost a decade until the recent cuts.
The letter to the Treasurer said: “Australia’s support for aid and the flourishing of our neighbours is fundamentally a moral question and it rises above partisan politics. . . Because of our shared faith, our commitment to compassion and our common humanity, and with a resolute hope that Australia can be a better neighbour and more principled actor in the community of nations, we call on you not to proceed with the scheduled cut of $224 million and begin, instead, to restore our commitment to Australian aid.”
Mr Thurley said, “Australian Aid ensures children in poorer countries are presented with equal opportunities, access to vaccinations and education. Aid provides access to safe drinking water and allows organisations to respond to humanitarian crises around the globe.
“Time is running out to stop our nation from becoming the least generous we’ve ever been.”