The official objective of the program is to ‘assist developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia’s national interest’.
While providing aid in line with Australia’s national interest might seem like a good idea, there are often times when these interest conflict with those of the people the aid is supposed to be assisting. When this occurs, the ability of the aid to combat poverty is often compromised and in same cases it can result in the aid doing more harm than good.
Australian aid delivery and priorities are criticised for their close relationship to national political and commercial interests, these are reflected in a number of concerning trends:
- the corporatisation of aid: aid delivered primarily through for-profit companies often results in aid funds going into the pockets of Australian companies, consultants and advisers instead of the people who need it most;
- unfair conditions on aid money that privilege Australian companies and national priorities at the expense of local self-determination;
- aid facilitating a trade liberalisation agenda, often at the expense of local livelihoods;
- securitisation of aid: aid motivated by Australia’s national security interests rather than the relief of poverty. This has seen an increase in Australian police presence in the Pacific in the name of good governance and regional stability.
- Climate aid funding which is inadequate, in breach of UN commitments and misspent
Australia will spend $4.3 billion on its aid program this year, equal to 0.33% of GDP, far below the average of 0.48% and the international target of 0.7%. The Australian aid program focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, although we increasingly provide aid to Africa and the Middle East.
Aid figures alone do not tell us much about the quality of our aid program or even the true quantity of government aid. Australia, like many other countries, inflates its aid figures by including expenditure which is not focused on poverty alleviation.
How does Australian government aid measure up internationally?
A good benchmark to compare Australia to is Denmark, a country that is often cited as having one of the better aid programs both in terms of the amount of aid it provides and its overall effectiveness in addressing poverty. In comparison Australia’s program suffers due to the low quantity of aid, as well as high levels of tied aid and excessive levels of technical assistance.
Last updated 15 November 2010
 AusAID Corporate Plan – 2006 to 2010, AusAID http://www.ausaid.gov.au/publications/pdf/corplan06.pdf last accessed 11 Nov [Emphasis added]
 Australian Council For International Development, Analysis: AID BUDGET 2010/11, June 2010, http://www.acfid.asn.au//resources/docs_resources/docs_papers/ACFID%20Budget%20Analysis%20revised%20June%202010.pdf