On Saturday, Tony Abbott declared Australia “under new management” after he led the Coalition — a center-right political alliance — to a resounding election victory over Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the six-year Labor government. Elected on a pledge to return the budget to surplus, Abbott is expected to be sworn in as prime minister early next week.
As Labor prepares to turn over the keys to the Australian Agency for International Development to the spending-wary Coalition, Australian aid groups fear that the heady days of growth and expansion for Canberra’s now more than AU$5 billion ($4.6 billion) aid program may be over.
“In the current environment and based on all of the other stated budget commitments of the Coalition — around spending and tax priorities — it is unclear to me how they will continue to keep the current [aid] growth trajectory,” Matthew Maury, national director of TEAR Australia, said.
Under the Labor government, Australia has been one of a few donors that have significantly increased foreign aid in the aftermath of the global financial crisis — Canberra’s aid spending has grown 49 percent since 2008. Rudd, the first prime minister to bind Australia to the target of contributing 0.5 percent of gross national income toward foreign aid, garnered praise across the Australian development community for his deep commitment to the Australian aid program.