Waylaid Dialectic

November 18, 2015

The Case for Canning Future Cuts to Australian Aid

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 7:45 am

This was going to be the first sentence of my most recent blog post on the Devpolicy blog:

Tony Abbot’s time as prime minister will be remembered by many for its folly (threats to ‘shirt front’ the leader of a nuclear-armed state, knighting a prince) and its failures (the budget that went nowhere, inaction on climate change). Amongst aid workers it will not be remembered fondly.

But cooler heads prevailed, and the post now starts in the following way:

Among aid supporters, Tony Abbott’s time as prime minister won’t be remembered fondly. First, there was the disintegration of AusAID for no good reason (not even those invented post-hoc). And then the largest ever cuts to Australian aid. Cuts that were extreme even by the turbulent standards of international aid flows. Cuts that weren’t justified by Australia’s deficit (aid is too small a share of federal spending to have a real impact). And cuts that were so sudden that nothing other than crude heuristics could guide where they fell. Different political parties have different beliefs, and it is fair enough that these influence policy choices, but governing well also means making major policy changes only when they are justified, and making them on the basis of evidence. Justification and evidence were notably absent from the Abbott government’s treatment of aid.

Now Tony’s tenure is behind us, the big question is whether Malcolm Turnbull’s government will be kinder. There are reasons to hope it will. Turnbull himself appears more capable and considered. And Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s power has increased. She didn’t appear to support the last aid cuts and she’s shown that she cares about important development issues such as empowering women. Also, the appointment of Steven Ciobo as Minister for International Development and the Pacific is a good sign—a signal there will be more concern for aid.

Yet Ciobo’s appointment is only a signal. And there is a much more tangible act the government could take to show it cares about aid: [read the rest of the blog post on Devpolicy.]

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