There's three main areas that I have been focusing on in studying this Federal Budget:
- Environmental management
- Millennium Development Goal No.1 on foreign aid
- Tackling indigenous poverty
And the Government is not scrubbing up too well in these areas.
Let's start with foreign aid, and the two opening paragraphs from Alexander Downer's press release on the Overseas Aid budget announcements:
"The 2007-08 Budget is a watershed for the Government’s aid programme and our largest ever investment in reducing poverty in our region. Australia will provide an estimated $3.2 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2007‑08, an increase over the 2006-07 budget ($3.0 billion). This continues the Government’s impressive track record of growth in ODA and maintains Australia’s ODA to gross national income (GNI) at 0.30 per cent.
The commitments contained in this Budget represent the seventh consecutive increase in overseas aid and significantly boost our efforts to improve the lives, security and well being of our neighbours. It is expected that from 2008-09 to 2010-11 development assistance will amount to around $3.5 billion, $3.8 billion and $4.3 billion respectively. By building long-term foundations for better governance and improved human security in our region, the package of budget measures directly supports the achievement of our shared development goals."
0.30 per cent. Australia committed itself to raising foreign aid to 0.70 per cent by 2015. The projections over the next three years (bearing in mind a growing economy and inflation) show that we won't go anywhere close to that. And do you notice the reference to "shared development goals" and not the "Millennium Development Goals"?
As I've noted before, there's also the problem with the manner in which Australian foreign aid is used, often merely to serve Australia's business interests. (Think AWB and Iraq.) I await AIDWatch's reaction to this budget.
One item that catches the eye is the allocation to the Government's crackpot Global Initiative on Forests and Climate. That's a whopping $164.4 million. Over four years. Downer says slightly more on that topic in this press release.
More on the environment and indigenous programs as I get time.