MEDIA RELEASE (For immediate release)       

18 September 2013                            

Aid/Watch condemns decision to subsume AusAID into DFAT

Australian Aid watchdog AID/WATCH today, came out in condemnation of reports that the Abbott government will ‘absorb’ AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Aid/Watch has long asserted that AusAID should have an independant cabinet level minister and be established as a stand-alone government department. Aid/Watch have campaigned for the aid program to have Australia’s interest removed entirely from the aid program arguing that the ongoing inclusion of Australia’s strategic and commercial interest must give way to a mandate that focuses on poverty reduction in accordance with the rights and interests of the poor and vulnerable. Aid/Watch regularly cite the high incidence of boomerang aid – where aid is given to developing countries only to return to Australia through the pockets of private contractors or Australian companies as a concerning factor in the aid program.

AID/WATCH Director Thulsi Narayanasamy says, “We are enormously disappointed. As AusAID stood previously, we were concerned that the AusAID wasn’t transparent and accountable enough but it was certainly something that they were moving towards. The Labor government’s instalment of a Minister for International Development would have gone a long way in ensuring a more independent aid program.

Ms Narayanasamy continued, ‘There were some programs that were clearly run in the interests of Australia such as the Mining for Development Initiative which promotes Australian private mining interests abroad under the guise of poverty alleviation, and the diversion of aid money to fulfil the requirements of our expensive and inhumane refugee program. But alongside this was an aid program which did work that was good, and did work to empower people and made some significant progress, particularly in the area of health and disaster responsiveness.’

Ms Narayanasamy said “This will have enormous effects of the way the aid program is run, and the accountability of the aid budget. The programs that will be slashed will likely be those that operate with a development mandate with the more questionable programs remaining priorities’.

Aid/Watch is concerned that the incoming government have not paid enough attention to the guidelines which regulate what can officially be counted as official development assistance and may use funds for program without a clear development or welfare mandate.

Ms  Narayanasamy added that, “Mr Abbott says this decision it will simplify the management of government business and of course it will. It’s early days yet, but it’d be really simple because they are more able than ever to throw the development mandate out the window and it will be business as usual for DFAT with an expanded budget thanks to the aid program.”

AID/WATCH are calling on Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop to reassess the ill-conceived and hasty decision and will launch advocate to reinstate AusAID as its own agency.

For further information contact Aid/Watch Director Thulsi Narayanasamy on 0405 801 943