At a glance
Strategic priorities
  • Australia’s development strategy aims to “promote national interest by contributing to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction” across six areas: 1) infrastructure, trade facilitation, and international competitiveness, 2) agriculture, fisheries, and water, 3) effective governance, 4) education and health, 5) building resilience, and 6) gender equality.
  • The ‘Pacific Step-up’ remains one of Australia’s most important development priorities, with ODA to the region set to reach record levels, according to the FY2019/20 budget. Australia’s heightened engagement is, in part, an attempt to counter China’s growing influence and investment in the region.
  • Increasing funding to the Pacific has come at the expense of development spending for other regions. Australia and plans to reduce its bilateral ODA to Pakistan by 52% between FY2018/19 and FY2019/20, before phasing it out completely in FY2020/21. The latest budget (FY2019/20) also outlines a 42% cut to funding for Nepal compared to FY2018/19.

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Outlook
  • The Liberal-National Coalition has made major cuts to Australia’s development budget in the six years since they came to power. A federal election in May 2019 returned the Liberal-National Coalition to government for a further 3 years. According to forward estimates, ODA will remain frozen until FY2022/23.
  • In December 2019, the government began the process of developing a new international development policy. This policy will build on the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and is expected to focus on economic infrastructure and connectivity, private sector investment, and economic partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.
  • In 2019 and 2020, devastating bush fires, ash rain, dust storms, hailstorms, and flash floods ravaged Australia, leading to increased calls from civil society groups, academics, and opposition politicians for the government to reassess its position on climate change and to include emissions reduction as an international development priority.