Charity still ends at home: the continuing decline of Australia’s official development assistance

International cooperation International relief Economic development Economic assistance Foreign aid Australia Pacific Area Asia

In 2015, The Australia Institute’s report, Charity ends at home, found that deep cuts in spending was driving the ODA budget to its lowest level, relative to Gross National Income (GNI) since the program began. This was due to 2014 cuts of $1.4 billion per year. These cuts lefts ODA 33 per cent lower in 2017–18 (relative to GNI) than in 2013– 14.

These cuts contradicted long standing commitments to increase ODA. In 1974, Australia allocated 0.45 per cent of our income to aid. During the Howard era there was bipartisan support for a target of 0.7 per cent of ODA/GNI, under the Millennium Development Goals, and this target is still nominally in place. However, Australia’s ODA has fallen even further from this target. Currently, Australian ODA is just 0.23 per cent of GNI – and on current budget numbers it is expected to reach 0.20 by 2021.

Australia’s aid performance against the target has not improved since these record cuts. Despite Minister Julie Bishop’s commitment in 2014 that the aid budget would be frozen at $5 billion, the 2017–18 Budget saw ODA fall over $1.3 billion below that level.

Further cuts of $401 million a year, as the government is reportedly considering, would drive Australia’s ODA to further record lows. A cut of this size would reduce Australia’s ODA by more than the amount currently spent on most Pacific Island countries, or more than the total spent on all of South and West Asia. Even in the absence of further cuts, Australia’s ODA is heading to new record lows.

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