Australia's foreign aid budget just hit rock bottom

Iraqi children in a displacement camp. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget introduced by Joe Hockey last year are being maintained in the 2016 Budget, resulting in a further $224 million fall to $3.877 billion in 2016-17.

The latest reduction follows the biggest cut on record, with Hockey slashing $1 billion from the aid program 12 months ago.

Treasurer Scott Morrison now sets his own record with the aid spend at an all-time low of 0.22% of national income — 22 cents per $100.

The reductions started by Hockey now add up to $11 billion in savings from foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop’s budget over the past three years. On the upside, aid spending is expected to increase by 1.1% over the next three years.

Indonesia once again bears some of the brunt of the cuts, losing another 5% of funds, around $15 million, on top of a 40% cut last year.

Two key nations involved in the government’s offshore refugee processing program, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, emerged unscathed in the latest savings.

The Turnbull government’s failure to restore the Australian aid budget is short-sighted and likely to damage Australia’s international reputation, aid agency CARE Australia has warned.

CARE Australia CEO Dr Julia Newton-Howes welcomed a modest increase to funding for humanitarian emergencies, but said the nation turned its back on the world’s poor.

“The Government’s refusal to reverse the final scheduled cut to the aid budget means Australia will become the least generous we’ve ever been with the lowest ratio of aid to the size of our economy ever,” she said.

“Overall, the cuts will still be damaging to Australia’s international reputation and to our long-term interests, especially at a time when many other developed nations are increasing aid budgets.”

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