The Australian Labor Party has given the perfect Christmas present to Australian aid advocates, announcing a commitment to increasing aid funding if elected to government next year.
Meeting for their National Conference, the ALP announced yesterday that if elected, they will increase Australian aid as a percentage of gross national income every year (with the goal of achieving a funding target of 0.5% of GNI).
“This funding is in line with our values as a compassionate nation …” – Tim Costello
The news comes hot on the heels of the party’s Monday commitment to provide additional aid funding for refugee work, if elected. These commitments included: $500 million over five years to the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; an additional $30 million to address the humanitarian crises in the Palestinian Territories, Myanmar and Bangladesh; and a commitment to reform the Community Sponsored Refugee Program from 10000, to 5,000 refugees to resettle in Australia annually.
Executive Director of Micah Australia Tim Costello welcomed the ALP announcements. “This funding is in line with our values as a compassionate nation and will contribute to giving people [who are] waiting to find safety, the support that they need during their wait,” said Costello, who noted that an unprecedented 68.5 million people are displaced around the world.
“Over five years, the funding would help make sure regional processing and resettlement is implemented in an orderly and structured way through the UNHCR – by building capacity such as boosting staff, facilities and training throughout the region.”
The focus on rebuilding Australia’s aid programme by a major party is a breakthrough for advocates who have lobbied MPs through four years of consistent cuts under the current Coalition Government.
Labor Senator Claire Moore spoke to Eternity and commended Micah Australia’s advocacy. “Micah is respected for the commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm of its advocacy,” Moore said.
“Parliamentarians know the Micah message and the history of the work over many years, and the Micah teams get access. [Micah’s] recent focus on our international development budget, and the impact of climate change in our region, has had a real impact on policy.”
Along with other organisations, Micah Australia has maintained a consistent pressure on MPs from all parties about the importance of Australian aid. It also has established a growing coalition of Christians eager to see Australia do its fair share and be a good global neighbour.
In September this year, Micah took a diverse delegation of female Australian Christian leaders to Canberra. They met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister Peter Dutton, Shadow Minister for Finance Jim Chalmers, and others, to raise concerns about Australia’s aid budget.
In addition, just two weeks ago, more than 200 Christians converged on Parliament House as part of Micah’s ‘Voices for Justice’. They met with 94 MPs (or their staff members) to specifically ask for an increase to the nation’s aid budget.
“There was strong consensus that Australia had stepped back in our responsibility to our region and beyond.” – Tim Costello
“These Christians, young and old, from all walks of life, lobbied on behalf of the world’s poor who will not vote or have a voice in the next election, but whose lives depend on aid decisions,” said Costello.
“As we met with politicians from all major parties, there was strong consensus that Australia had stepped back in our responsibility to our region and beyond.”
“We are a compassionate and generous nation, and we hope to see many more announcements over coming months that reflect the nation we want to be and have the ability to be.”