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Australia must not lose sight of critical need for foreign aid as defence budget soars

Australia should focus on increasing foreign aid, not just supersizing defence budgets.
18 April 2024

As the world faces a growing number of protracted and new humanitarian crises, including in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan, Save the Children Australia calls on the Federal Government to refocus on the critical importance of foreign aid in bolstering global stability and helping save the lives of children who need it most.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Richard Marles announced the government will spend an extra $50 billion on defence over the next decade, with annual funding for defence to surpass $100 billion by 2034.

In comparison, Australia provided just $4.77 billion in foreign aid to our global neighbours in need in 2023-24, resulting in Australia ranking a lowly 26 out of 31 among likeminded, wealthy countries on how much foreign aid we provide. This is projected to remain stagnant, adjusted for inflation, into the next decade.

Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler said spending such vast amounts of taxpayer funds on defence, while not increasing investment in peace and prosperity, is unconscionable. 

“The National Defence Strategy has core objectives to contribute to the ‘collective security of the Indo-Pacific' and ‘maintain a global rules-based order’. This can’t be achieved through defence and deterrence alone. While our defence budget soars, the foreign aid budget is withering on the vine. 

“Australia can and must invest in the stability and prosperity of our region at the same time, and that requires a commensurate investment in aid and development,”  
Mr Tinkler said. 

As of June 2023, one in 22 people around the world needed humanitarian assistance – that's a staggering 362 million people, a record high and more than the entire population of the United States.

"Spending more money on weapons, submarines and military bases, without also investing more in our humanitarian effort, is tone deaf when we are seeing the terrible impacts that weapons are having on Palestinian, Ukrainian and Sudanese children,”  Mr Tinkler said.

“While conflicts and crises may have left Australians feeling less safe, we need to invest in aid and global peace building solutions, which in turn greatly improves the global security situation.”

There are hundreds of millions of children around the world today living on the frontlines of conflict, facing starvation or disease, and suffering from climate impacts who could benefit greatly from Australia increasing its aid budget.

The Australian Government has committed to increasing foreign aid from its current levels of just 0.19% of our Gross National Income (GNI) to 0.5%, which would be welcome, but it has not come close to delivering on this over the forward estimates. Even if achieved, this would still be less than the internationally agreed aid-to-GNI target of 0.7%.

Save the Children is calling for Australia to increase its humanitarian funding allocation in the upcoming Federal Budget to $1.08 billion to play an appropriate role in addressing global crises, and double the Humanitarian Emergency Fund to AU$300 million annually.


MEDIA CONTACT:  Joshua Mcdonald on 0478 010 972 or


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