The report, by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Foundation for Development Co-operation, was produced by a taskforce including former Howard government trade minister Mark Vaile, former Rudd government parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan and former chief of army Peter Leahy.

The size of Australia’s aid program has doubled in the past five years to $4 billion and is due to double again by 2015, making it the fifth largest government agency by spending.

The report recommends more efforts to explain how aid contributes to national security and strengthened accountability measures to maintain public support for the aid program.

”Some politicians, talkback hosts and commentators find spending to help others beyond our shores an easy target, especially at times of natural disaster in Australia,” the report says.

Among its recommendations are regular reviews of aid effectiveness, and greater oversight through a subcommittee.

The report endorses Australia’s aid commitments in Africa, but says they should not come at the expense of efforts in the Asia-Pacific. Australia had ”compelling security interests” in focusing on the South Pacific, where China was growing in importance as a donor, the report says.

Aid is currently the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, but the report recommends the appointment of a dedicated minister for overseas development assistance.