“Australians are generous people. They help out those in need.”
The truth of the Gillard Government’s statement is being proven by thousands of Australians this week; but Julia Gillard and the members of the Federal Government are not among them.
This week more than 7,000 Australians are choosing to feed themselves with just $2 a day. It’s a meagre amount; and one that has seen me wave goodbye to my daily coffee, condiments and sugar hit.
It’s all in the name of providing a window onto the daily challenges faced by some the 1.4 billion people who live on the equivalent of $2 or less a day.
It’s not an easy budget to stick to - even for just five days. And yet thousands are opting into this challenge; to stand in solidarity with over a billion of our global neighbours who have no choice, and to raise $1 million and counting for projects investing in change for our world’s poorest.
It’s just another chapter in the tale of the Australian public standing up for the world’s poorest, while the Government lag on the international stage.
It’s a public spirit that stands in stark contrast to Labor’s claims to generosity; when our Government - the best placed to deliver on its promise to increase in foreign aid - walks away from this promise, to instead deliver a billion dollar surplus.
Let me say that again: best placed in the world. Our high GDP and low national debt make us one of the wealthiest countries in the world; and we claim that we need to balance our books on the backs of the world’s poor.
It isn’t generous; and it isn’t smart.
Foreign aid saves lives. Globally; it has helped reduce polio by 99%, making the prospect of eradicating a human disease possible for only the second time in history. It is literally shaping our world’s future.
Even in the United Kingdom, where an agenda of austerity is seeing deep cuts across the budget; both sides of politics have agreed that the world’s poorest shouldn’t bear the brunt of budget cuts - with a bipartisan agreement maintain a commitment to investing 0.7% of GNI in foreign aid.
In a week where thousands of Aussies’ are making tough budget cuts with the poorest in mind; it’s a pity the Treasurer couldn’t do the same.