CARITAS Australia chief executive officer Paul O’Callaghan has accused the Australian Government of withdrawing from regional leadership after its announcement of further deep cuts to the foreign aid budget.
“Treasurer Joe Hockey has announced deep cuts of a further $3.7 billion from the aid budget in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook,” he said.
“This brings to more than $11 billion, cuts to the aid budget in the last year alone.
“These cuts are severe and will put Australia near the bottom of the OECD rankings as a contributor to international aid and development efforts.
“This represents a significant turning away from six decades of Australia playing a constructive leadership role in our region and on the world stage.”
Mr O’Callaghan had just returned 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, when he made the comments.
He said every previous Coalition government had expanded Australia’s role as an international player through overseas aid and development.
“For the hundreds of thousands of Australian Catholics in parishes and schools around the country, this decision represents an abandoning of the region’s poorest people,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
“For tens of millions of poor people in neighbouring countries, Australia’s aid program has made a very real difference and has enabled many countries to achieve higher levels of economic growth and prosperity and stability.”