The Australian government will spend $4.3 billion on foreign aid in 2010-11. Aid spending is often seen as a selfless and philanthropic exercise for the benefit of people in less wealthy countries. In reality, aid is often driven by Australia’s national political and commercial interests.
What is aid?
In recent years Australian aid figures have been inflated by the inclusion of spending on:
- controlling ‘irregular’ immigration and upgrading of detention facilities in Indonesia;
- training Burmese intelligence officers and counter-terrorism workshops;
- cancellation of debt, which is contrary to international agreements.
The reality of Australian government aid
Concerns have been raised not only over the amount of aid Australia gives, but also the quality and effectiveness of aid. In particular, concerns have been raised about:
- the corporatisation of aid, that results in aid money 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, which has seen increased Australian police presence in the Pacific in the name of good governance. This has been motivated by Australia’s national security interests rather than the relief of poverty.
- Technical Assistance – Technical Assistance (TA) funding often goes to experts (usually from Australia) to assist people in developing countries develop skills in particular areas. Internationally, TA has been a source of considerable criticism due to its high cost and lack of effectiveness in developing capacity.
- Aiding Climate Change – The impacts of climate change are being felt most harshly by the poor worldwide, and not least in the Pacific Islands. Australia’s climate aid is not only inadequate, but a large portion is being misspent on controversial carbon offset schemes in Indonesia and PNG. 
Multilateral development agencies
Australia gives more money to theWorld Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) than to United Nations agencies and programs.
The World Bank and ADB in particular have been criticised for conditionality of their loans, undemocratic governing structures, and funding large-scale projects that undermine people’s lives and livelihoods.
Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
Many people see NGOs as the main agents of development. However only $135 million of Australias $4.3 billion 2010-11 aid budget is allocated to NGOs and community engagement programs, this amounts to a mere 2.5%.
For most NGOs, it is donations from philanthropic individuals and organisations, rather than government funding, that keep them going.
Find here some of the key considerations to take into account when deciding which NGO to donate to.
AID/WATCH is gearing up for a broad campaign to change Australia’s aid policies and practices. And we need your help!
Last updated 15 November 2010 Next page
 Australian Government, Budget 2010-2011, Budget Paper No. 2, Immigration and Citizenship. http://www.budget.gov.au/2010-11/content/bp2/html/bp2_expense-15.htm
 Goodman, J. (2007) The Australian aid program: Aiding the Burmese Intelligence systems. AID/WATCH, Sydney.
 United Nations (2003) Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development, p10. http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/monterrey/MonterreyConsensus.pdf
 Doran, C. (2007) Determining Their National Interest: Australia’s Economic Intervention in Iraq, AID/WATCH, Sydney.
 ActionAid (2006) Real Aid 2: Making Technical Assistance Work. http://www.actionaid.org.uk/doc_lib/real_aid2.pdf
 Goodman, J. and Roberts, E. (2010) Australian REDD Aid to Indonesia – Ineffective and Unjust. In Reality of Aid 2010, Aid and Development Effectiveness: Towards Human Rights, Social Justice and Democracy, Reality of Aid, Manila. Pp 53-60. http://www.realityofaid.org/roa-reports/index/secid/375/part/1
 Australian Council For International Development, Aid Budget Analysis 2010/11, June 2010 p7 http://www.acfid.asn.au//resources/docs_resources/docs_papers/ACFID%20Budget%20Analysis%20revised%20June%202010.pdf , p3