By Barry Morris
A MORNINGTON church group wants Australia’s political leaders to increase overseas aid which has dropped to an all-time low.
St Macartan’s Catholic Church social justice group says the lack of commitment to foreign aid is a “disgrace”.
The group has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Nationals leader Michael McCormack and Greens leader Richard di Natale.
As well as publishing the letter in St Macartan’s parish bulletin, it has sent the letter to peninsula church newsletters and bulletins in the hope of alerting all people of goodwill on the dire straits of overseas aid in the run-up to the Saturday 18 May federal election.
Although Australia is the ninth wealthiest country in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it “stagnates” at 19th for aid contributions when these are calculated as a per cent of gross national income.
In 1971, Australia joined the OECD, which has a target of 0.7 per cent of GNI going to overseas development.
The social justice group has published a graph showing that overseas aid has dropped from a high of 0.49 per cent of GNI at the end of the Menzies era to a low of 0.21 per cent in the federal government’s latest budget.
It says the government is letting down countries depending on aid, particularly those in the South Pacific and South-East Asia, which look to Australia for help in dragging themselves out of dire poverty.
“Overseas aid is a matter of justice,” the letter states.
“It is not charity. It is not paternalistically giving alms to the poor. Nor should we demand possible recipients earn our aid.
“It is simply being fair, sharing the abundant wealth of the world, so no country is left in sub-human poverty.
“All it requires is that those nations which have promised to contribute do so. Australia must do simply that.”
The letter says the matter is too important to be debated between political parties and that Australia expects the new parliament to co-operate in legislating for 0.7 per cent of GNI for overseas aid by 2030.