Julia Gillard noncommittal on meeting Australian aid target pledge

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivers remarks at the launching of the Australian Multicultural Council on Aug. 22, 2011. Gillard has said she will not “engage in individual items of speculation about expenditure” when asked about reports that the Australian government will push back plans to meet the country's aid target. Photo by: Kate Lundy

Will Australia renege on its pledge to double the foreign aid budget to 8 billion Australian dollars ($8.2 billion) by 2015? Aid agencies are hoping it won’t.

In a bid to balance the budget, Australian news program “7.30” reported April 4 that legislators could push back the aid target deadline to 2017. By doing so, as much as AU$1 billion could be saved annually.

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello told “7.30” he doesn’t think the government would move the target, although he would be “very worried” if it did. Costello said keeping the aid target is a “smart investment” for security and economic reasons.

Andrew Hewett, executive director at Oxfam Australia, echoed Costello’s sentiments to the Australian Associated Press. Hewett said there’s “a real interest in having a good quality, well-resourced aid program.”

Hewett just wants Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stick to the government’s promise. Costello would be happy if Gillard would repeat the pledge. But Gillard, when pressed to address the issue, said she will not “engage in individual items of speculation about expenditure.”

Back in 2007, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who also served as Gillard’s foreign minister from September 2010 until last February, committed to boost Australia’s aid spending to reach 0.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2015. But with Rudd no longer in government, some in Australia’s aid community fear this commitment is standing on shaky ground.

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    Aimee Rae Ocampo

    In her role as editor for business insight, Aimee creates and manages multimedia content and cutting-edge analysis for executives in international development. As the manager of Development Insider, Devex's flagship publication for executive members, she is constantly on the lookout for the latest news, trends and policies that influence the business of development.