Aid figures alone do not tell us much about the quality of our aid program or even the true quantity of government aid.

According to international research the practice of inflating aid figures is a common problem in the international donor community.  Australia is no exception.

AID/WATCH research in 2007 revealed that nearly a billion dollars in aid was not poverty focused[1] or directly working towards meeting the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In addition:

  • Australia’s 2010/2011 aid budget provides aid funds for controlling ‘irregular’ immigration and upgrading of detention facilities in Indonesia;[2]
  • Aid money is being used to fund REDD pilot schemes in Indonesia and PNG where “the Australian Government very explicitly states that the primary purpose for these pilots is to influence the international negotiating agenda for a post-Kyoto climate agreement” [3]
  • In 2003 Australian aid funds paid up to a million dollars for the salaries of Australian Wheat Board executives to pursue corrupt wheat deals in Iraq at the time of the allied invasion.[4]
  •  Around AUD600 million of Australia’s 2010-11 aid money will be spent on AusAID departmental, ACIAR and other Australian government departments. AusAID did not provide information about which other government departments would receive this funding.[5]

Australia follows the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for determining what counts as Official Development Assistance (ODA). This has allowed Australian aid to be  spent not only within AusAID but any form of government department expenditure that fits the criteria set by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Since the criteria is determined by donor governments, it is prone to reflect donor interests and legitimise aid trends such as security-focused aid.

While it may be reasonable for Australian Government funding to support Australia’s national interests in the above mentioned ways, such funding should not be considered as ‘aid’, as they do not contribute to the aid goals of long term poverty alleviation and sustainable development.


[1] AID/WATCH, Fighting Poverty or Fantasy Figures? The Reality of Australian aid, Flint Duxfield and Kate Wheen, May 2007

[2] Australian Government, Budget 2010-2011, Budget Paper No. 2, Immigration and Citizenship.

[3] Friends of the Earth Australia,  Aid/Watch, WALHI, & Serikat Petani, What a Scam!Australia’s REDD offsets for Copenhagen, November 2009

[4] Doran, C. (2007) Determining Their National Interest: Australia’s Economic Intervention in Iraq, AID/WATCH, Sydney.

[5] Australian Council For International Development, Aid Budget Analysis 2010/11, June 2010  p7



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Last updated 14 November 2010

Fighting Poverty or
Fantasy Figures ?
       The Reality of Australian aid
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