Australian international development council criticizes development budget cuts

Marc Purcell, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), has criticized the fiscal year (FY) 2018-19 Australian Federal budget for including further cuts of A$141 million (US$105 million) to ODA. Referring to the budget as "morally wrong and strategically short-sighted", he said Australian development spending would drop to 0.19% as a proportion of GNI by FY2021-22. While he welcomed the increase in development assistance in the Pacific, he criticized the lack of focus on the SDGs.

Media release - ACFID


Australian FY2018-19 development assistance budget remains steady

Australia’s Treasurer, Scott Morrison, delivered Australia's national budget on 8 May. Total Australian official development assistance (ODA) for financial year (FY) 2018-19 will be A$4.2 billion (US$3.1 billion).  This is similar to the FY2017-18 budget level, with a temporary  increase to cover ODA-eligible contributions  to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Assistance to the Pacific is set to increase to A$1.3 billion (US$967 million). This includes two-thirds of the cost of building a high-speed fibre-optic cable between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, with a connection to Australia. Funding for key sectors, including agriculture, health, and education, remains close to FY2017-18 levels, as do contributions to multilateral health and education funds.

News site  – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Australia achieves its aid-for-trade target

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced that Australia has achieved its target that 20% of the total development assistance budget is focused on 'aid-for-trade' investments. The government’s 2015 Aid-for-Trade Strategy aimed to assist countries in areas such as reducing internal constraints to trade, implementing reform in the sector, and achieving better integration into the global trading system. Over 23% of the development assistance in financial year 2016-17 provided such aid-for-trade support.

 Media release – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


French president visits Australia for discussions on the South Pacific

French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting Australia from May 1 to May 3 to discuss issues in the South Pacific, including development. He is meeting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney. Reports indicate he wishes to discuss a common response in the South Pacific, particularly in security and climate change. Macron will continue on to New Caledonia after Australia.

News article - The Local

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Australian development minister argues ODA too unpopular with public to increase

Minister for Development Cooperation and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti–Wells, has reportedly suggested that increasing Australia’s ODA spending would be difficult, given the public’s views. She indicated this view  was based on polling figures. Responding to questions at the Overseas Development Institute in London, the minister suggested that what Australia spends on foreign assistance, which is significantly below previous levels, is appropriate. The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell, argued that the Minister’s comments did not reflect the reality of Australia’s support development spending.

Media report - The Guardian Australia


UK joins international solar alliance

The UK has announced its membership in the International Solar Alliance (ISA) ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in London. The ISA, an Indian-led initiative, seeks to  deliver clean and affordable energy to a billion people. The UK will provide expertise and advice to ensure the effective delivery of ISA's goals, not monetary contributions. This announcement follows the recent publication of a new UK development strategy that outlines as a specific priority the linking of British expertise, knowledge, and skills in the delivery of DFID's mandate. 

Press release - UK government

ODI publishes paper for Commonwealth Summit

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) paper, published in advance of the Commonwealth Summit in London, discusses the  opportunities for  development in the Commonwealth through job creation, equitable prosperity, and increasing resilience. The paper calls upon the Commonwealth Heads of State to create 50,000 jobs each day until 2030 to provide opportunities for young people, to support member states to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through policies and financing that prioritize those most at risk of being left behind, and to assist Small Island Developing States to access financing to ensure climate resilience and recovery from natural disasters. 

Publication - ODI 

Australian development cooperation minister urges greater British ODA to the Pacific

Australia’s Minister for Development Cooperation and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, has urged Britain to increase its engagement in the South Pacific. This is despite Australia substantially cutting its own ODA budget to areas outside the Pacific. She emphasized the importance of Commonwealth donors supporting shared beliefs on freedom and commitment to the rule of law.

The minister also commented on the nature of Australia's development assistance to the region, which comes in the form of grants, as opposed to funding provided through loans, which could leave Pacific nations with significant debt burdens.

News report - Sydney Morning Herald

News report - Sydney Morning Herald


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Parliamentary committee acknowledges significant problems with proposed bill against foreign financing of advocacy

The Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has recommended major revisions to proposed legislation that had aimed to reduce foreign financing of advocacy. Their advisory report follows hearings last month into the proposed Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.  Strong opposition from charities and non-government organizations has led to the Committee recommending that many aspects of the legislation be reconsidered. These changes are aimed at reducing the proposed reporting overheads and penalties, and removing the potential requirement for statutory declarations of Australian citizenship when donating funds.

Advisory report - Australian Parliament


Defense establishment reportedly concerned about possible Australian ODA cuts

The Australian Financial Review reports concerns by defense groups at a possible further reduction in ODA.  Media reports have suggested the government is examining a  $400 million reduction to the annual ODA budget. Academics and think tank representatives expressed concerns that this would undermine Australia’s standing in the region and its ability to provide leadership. Commentators argued development assistance is critical to a country’s efforts to achieve regional influence.

News article - Australian Financial Review