Caritas Australia has welcomed the commitment by Labor Senator Penny Wong to begin restoring Australia’s international aid program if it wins government.
In an address to the University of Queensland on Tuesday, the federal Shadow Foreign Minister vowed to increase development assistance as a percentage of national income and commit funds to Pacific programs, The Guardian reports.
Senator Wong said it would be impossible for Labor to replace the $11 billion cut from Australia's aid budget since the Coalition came to power in 2013.
She said cuts “have not only had a very real impact to the people who benefit from investments in areas like health and education”, they have “damaged Australia’s reputation as a reliable partner in the region and lessened Australia’s influence precisely at the same time our national interest compels us to engage more deeply”.
Caritas Australia’s chief Paul O’Callaghan said: “We welcome Labor’s commitment to rebuilding the aid budget following the large cuts made by the government over the last five years.”
“We also welcome their recognition of climate change resilience and adaptation as a key element for a successful aid program, their appointment of a human rights ambassador to oversee the activities of Australian companies operating overseas, and their commitment to rebuilding development expertise within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”
“Aid programs transform the lives of millions of people. Simple things like access to clean water or the opportunity to go to school can make a world of difference in enabling people to break free from the cycle of extreme poverty.”
“We expect that both major political parties will restore the Australian aid budget in line with our formal government commitment as a signatory to the global Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.