AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN AID CUTS CRITICISED AS NATION SLIPS IN OECD RANKINGS
Australia should follow the British Conservative government’s lead in enshrining its aid budget in legislation to prevent it from being diminished in an appeal for votes, leading campaigners say, with the OECD listing Australia as among the countries recording the biggest declines in aid for the world’s poorest people. The OECD’s latest rankings show Australia slipping another spot to 17th out of 29 countries – meaning small countries like Switzerland and Luxembourg are contributing a greater portion of their budgets to helping the world’s neediest compared to Australia. Australia’s foreign aid cuts means ‘Australia is not taking its place in the world’, says Denmark’s former PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. A country’s aid budget is generally measured as a proportion of a nation’s gross national income (GNI).
Under Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s cuts to the budget, Australia’s total contribution fell to just over $3 billion in 2016, or 0.25 per cent of GNI. This was below the average of 0.32 per cent of GNI recorded by the 29 OECD countries last year. Overall country to country aid to the least-developed countries fell by 3.9 per cent in real terms from 2015 and aid to Africa fell 0.5 per cent, “as some DAC members backtracked on a commitment to reverse past declines in flows to the poorest countries,” the OECD said. But in one positive trend, overall aid has increased by 102 per cent since 2000. “While governments should be commended for sustaining investment in development during these difficult times, it is unacceptable that aid to the poorest countries is in decline. Recent signals from some donor countries on future aid levels add further cause for concern”, said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.
Aid fell in 7 countries, with the largest declines seen in Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden. But out of these countries, Sweden remains a member of the elite club of six nations making good on the commitment for aid to reach 0.7% of GNI. Finland and the Netherlands still contribute more than Australia as a proportion of their budgets with both countries making the top 10 in the rankings. The countries meeting their 0.7% of GNI targets include: Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom. Britain’s Conservative government enshrined the aid target in legislation when David Cameron was prime minister. His successor Theresa May recently launched a passionate defence of UK aid, saying it was in Britain’s strategic interests to contribute. Denmark’s former prime minister recently said Australia was not taking its place in the world with its aid cuts.
Tony Milne from Campaign for Australia Aid says Australia needs to recommit to its aid targets. Mr Milne said the Australian government should be ashamed and concerned by its continued decline on the OECD rankings. In September 2015, Australia signed up to the United Nations new sustainable development goals. Ms Bishop told the UN General Assembly in New York at the time “Australia has taken this commitment seriously and today we agree a new 2030 Agenda that seeks to end extreme poverty within a generation.” Mr Milne said it was time for the minister to make good on her words. “Julie Bishop needs to take that commitment seriously and this current coming budget, we need to see some steps forward, in terms of starting to reach that target and really the next decade of budgets we need to see increases to aid,” he said.
Mr Milne also called for parliamentarians to consider following Britain’s lead in enshrining the aid budget in legislation to protect it from parochial calls to spend the money on domestic needs instead. ” It’s definitely something that should be considered,” he said. Labor’s spokeswoman for foreign affairs Penny Wong recently praised the UK government’s approach. “Theresa May’s commitment shows international development can be bipartisan and doesn’t have to be a progressive/conservative issue.” “This achievement was made possible by genuine and sustained support from administrations on both sides of politics,” Senator Wong said. Australian aid cuts have affected a wide range of programs in Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
In 2015, the Fred Hollows Foundation ended a program helping vulnerable Pakistani women and children regain or keep their sight, that was supposed to run for five years, just two years after it began. The organisation Plan International Australia says it can no longer afford programs to stop young Indonesian girls being married as child brides. “Huge cuts to our foreign aid budget this year meant many of Plan International Australia’s projects simply didn’t have the money to continue. One of these was a project to stop illegal child marriages in Indonesia,” Susanne Legena from Plan said. “We want Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to know that cuts to foreign aid funding has very real consequences” she said.
ACT SPORTS CLUBS TO BE FINED FOR NOT ALLOWING TRANS GENDER MEN TO SHARE FACILITIES WITH GIRLS
Most Canberra parents would not be comfortable with men identifying as women to share sporting change rooms with their daughters yet the ACT Government will impose fines on clubs who do not comply. The Australian Christian Lobby described as heavy-handed, the ACT Government’s latest attempt to force contested rainbow ideology on Canberra’s junior and senior sporting clubs through the launch of its ‘Everyone can Play’ guidelines. “The ACL is concerned with the coercive nature of these guidelines using the threat of hauling sports clubs and individuals before the Human Rights Commission and even court should they not conform to the directives,” ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said. “Everyone can Play” guidelines seem to come straight out of the controversial “Safe Schools” program which teaches children that their gender is fluid.
“All people should be treated with respect and courtesy at all times. But at the end of the day, are the mums and dads of Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin comfortable with the ACT Government legally requiring their daughters to share toilets, change rooms and showers with men and boys identifying as women? “The idea that gender is fluid is contested and reasonable accommodations for those dealing with gender identity issues that take into account everyone’s concerns can and should be made. “It appears that the ACT Government is forcing a politically correct ideology on junior and senior sporting clubs in Canberra using the big stick of anti-discrimination law.” “We should treat everyone with respect but I’m sure most mums and dads would prefer that we just let boys be boys and girls be girls.”
“The ACT Human Rights Commission seems to be conflating the extremely rare condition of intersex which affects only about 1 in 1500 people, not the 1.7 per cent claimed in the ACT guidelines, to push a contested gender ideology,” Mr Shelton said. The “Everyone can Play” guidelines warn that the law applies with regards to access to change rooms even where surgery has not occurred.
Archbishop Glenn Davies has welcomed a report to the NSW Government on Special Religious Education (SRE). The report makes 56 recommendations about the implementation of SRE, complaints procedures, teacher training and curriculum development. The report, conducted by ARTD consultants, along with the Department’s response has been released on the Department of Education’s website. The Education Department says the policy supporting freedom of religion and conscience in NSW public schools since 1848 will be maintained. “I am pleased that the report confirms SRE has overwhelming support, is working well and is an integral part of the education offered by NSW public schools.” Dr Davies said. “The statistics show that SRE is operating in 92% of primary schools and 81% of secondary schools, which underlines our commitment to providing the highest quality educational outcomes.”
Dr Davies commended the Minister and the Department of Education for the thorough nature of the review and the commitment which ‘recognises the diversity of Australian society and supports parental choice in educating children about their faith’. “We shall work with the Department in its response to the recommendations. A number of areas identified, including the provision of curriculum information, have already been addressed by our own internal reviews of SRE procedures.” Dr Davies said. “The Department of Education’s own Wellbeing Framework recognises the importance of the spiritual wellbeing of children in developing a sense of meaning and purpose as well as connecting growing students to culture, religion and community. This holistic approach to education and community involvement is the hallmark of a strong and diverse society of which SRE is a vital part” the Archbishop said.