he Federal Opposition says recent aid budget cuts have forced the people behind some Australian funded projects in Africa to ask other countries to keep the projects alive. Delegates from around the world are meeting at a major UN development conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, seeking to increase global donations, despite Australia recently cutting its foreign aid budget.
MARK COLVIN: The Federal Opposition says recent aid budget cuts have forced the people behind some Australian funded projects in Africa to ask other countries to keep those projects alive.
Delegates from around the world are meeting at a major UN development conference in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
They’re discussing ways to increase global aid.
But Australia has cut billions from its aid budget in recent years.
Bill Birtles reports.
BILL BIRTLES: They’re ambitious goals that require generous spending.
The UN is hoping at its development financing conference this week that countries will edge towards a goal of ending poverty and achieving food security worldwide by 2030.
And to achieve that, it’s no longer asking donor countries to pledge billions of dollars, but rather trillions.
The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop isn’t part of Australia’s delegation, but Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek is attending the conference unofficially.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: The heads of UN agencies – very senior people – cannot understand that a country like Australia would cut $11.3 billion from its aid budget.
And then on the ground, the projects that I’ve been visiting, including child and maternal health programs, child nutrition programs, fantastic kindergarten and preschool I went to yesterday that has a donkey library that travels around to little villages so that kids can improve their literacy.
The people who work at the grassroots of these programs that are highly successful and very cost-effective can’t understand either why they’re making decisions about who they’re going to stop looking after.
BILL BIRTLES: She says while some Australian-funded aid projects are being wound up, organisers of at least one program that has been receiving around $90 million of aid, are now actively seeking to replace that funding from other countries.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Australia is unique in actually not just reducing its dollar commitment, but abandoning what was previously a bipartisan target for aid and going backwards instead.
BILL BIRTLES: Sub-Saharan Africa bore the brunt of aid cuts delivered in the past year; Australian funding there has been cut by 70 per cent.
Dave Husy is from Plan International.
DAVE HUSY: We’ve had to restrict and cut a number of our Australian-funded programs in African countries, including one which is actually in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, quite close to the conference itself, one that was focused on young children and supporting parents.
BILL BIRTLES: But the focus in Addis Ababa this week isn’t just on lifting donations.
Tax avoidance by multi-national companies is a global problem, but in the developing world it’s estimated to cost around $100 billion.
Catherine Woodin from Save the Children says getting agreement on the issue is proving difficult at the conference.
CATHERINE WOODIN: One of the main points of contention between developed and developing countries is this language in the document about a new intergovernmental tax body, which will basically set the norms to help the poorest nations earn more through tax revenues.
You know, some of the large developed countries are opposed to this upgrade, but for us we see, changes to international tax cooperation as critical and vital.
BILL BIRTLES: And Labor says the Government is on the wrong side of that disagreement.
Tanya Plibersek says the Australian delegation is seeking to water down language for a final communiquabout the issue.
TANYA PLIBERSEK: Australia is now arguing for a weakening of the language around base erosion, profit shifting and tax transparency.
It’s beyond belief that we are saying on the one hand that emerging economies need to do more to support themselves to invest in the services they need domestically, and on the other hand we are arguing to make it harder for them to collect the taxes.
BILL BIRTLES: A spokeswoman for the Treasurer says Australia strongly supports global tax reform efforts that address tax avoidance, and enhance international transparency.
And she says the Government continues to support developing countries to strengthen their tax authorities.
MARK COLVIN: Bill Birtles.