Australia’s policy of prioritising its national interests means that aid does not always reflect the priorities and needs of recipient countries and communities. This also creates a dramatic power imbalance between Australia and aid recipient countries. More often than not, Australian aid reflects the political and commercial interests of Australia. In 2003 the words of PNG Prime Minister, Michael Somare indicated how aid funding with such an imbalance in power plays out:

‘[Australia’s] aid money is totally controlled by them. They decide how much money they want to spend on PNG and on what projects. They keep the money in Australia. They manage it through AusAID. They appoint their own companies in Australia to manage the projects. They decide on who carries out the projects.[2]


The 1997 Simons Review of Australia’s aid program recommended a shift away from the foreign policy and commercial objectives of aid in favour of ‘One Clear Objective’ an aid program focused on poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Unfortunately, more than ten years on, Australian aid still falls short of incorporating this recommendation.

The adoption of the Millennium Development Goals as the benchmark for the Australian aid program by the Labor government was a welcome development. In 2008 the government also committed to “beginning a new era of cooperation with the island nations of the Pacific”– one based on “partnership, mutual respect and mutual responsibility.” (See Port Moresby Declaration)

The rhetoric, however, has not been matched by meaningful action. The Australian Government continues to use its position as a major aid donor and trading partner in the region to push its own interests on issues of critical importance to the Pacific islands such as trade and climate change. 


[1] AusAID Corporate Plan – 2006 to 2010, AusAID last accessed 11 Nov

[2] PNG Post Courier, Sept1, 2003


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Last updated 12 November 2010

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