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Caritas Australia fears further foreign aid cuts

Helping hands: Caritas Australia supported reconstruction work such as this in the Philippines after last year’s devastating Cyclone Haiyan.

Helping hands: Caritas Australia supported reconstruction work such as this in the Philippines after last year’s devastating Cyclone Haiyan.

CARITAS Australia called on the Australian Government to rethink planned cuts to foreign aid as Super Typhoon Hagupit intensified on its path towards the Philippines.

The latest typhoon comes just a year after the Philippines was hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan which affected 10 million people across 8000 villages, 447 towns and 48 cities in nine regions across the country.

Caritas Australia chief executive officer Paul O’Callaghan said likely devastation from the latest typhoon would add to the many challenges aid agencies worldwide were facing.

“These include the escalation of the Middle East crisis and the latest Ebola outbreak,” he said.

“The proposed cuts in Federal Government aid funding would add to previous cuts totalling nearly $8 billion since September 2013.

“Millions of Australians quietly donate to Australia’s aid and development sector, and they expect our Government to play their part in eradicating poverty.

“Surely Australia is better than this?”

Mr O’Callaghan, speaking from Sri Lanka as part of a delegation from international Caritas and Catholic networks commemorating the devastating impact across Asian countries of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, said the Government’s attitude was cause for “grave concern”.

“At a time when we commemorate the Boxing Day tragedy, we also recall the tremendous support by Australian aid donors and the Australian Government in the response,” he said.

“Many leaders from the ten countries represented at this commemoration have expressed great disappointment that Australia would now scale back its international development role.

“For over 50 years Australia has had a proud reputation as one of the leading partners in global efforts to lift millions out of poverty.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann are believed to be pressing for cuts to aid spending, which are being resisted by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Caritas Australia has a petition to Mr Hockey and Senator Cormann available on its website with instructions on how to phone the politicians’ offices: www.caritas.org.au/australianaid.

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