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Federal Budget should prioritise aid, not weapons

Save the Children is urging the Australian Government to use the 2019-20 Budget to revitalise the significantly weakened foreign aid budget, not increase investment in weapons manufacturing
29 March 2019

This comes as The Greens leader Richard Di Natale today announced an election policy, which seeks to triple Australia’s aid by 2030, and put an end to the Australia’s ambition for Australia to become a leading global arms dealer.

Australia’s foreign aid budget has been slashed over the past five years, falling from $5 billion in 2013/14 to $3.9 billion in 2018/19, a total cut of more than 25 percent in real terms.

“As the ninth largest economy in the world, and with the Budget reportedly returning to surplus, we can and should do more. After five years of cuts to foreign aid, its time to lift our investment,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.

In stark comparison, Australia currently spends more than $36 billion on defence – almost 1000 percent more than on aid – some of which may be fueling the very humanitarian crises Australian aid is responding to.

The ABC recently revealed that in 2018 more than $36 million of taxpayer funds were provided to Electro Optics Systems (EOS), a Canberra based company providing weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, one of the key parties to the war in Yemen.

This is on top of more than $33 million worth of performance bonds Australia provided to EOS in 2017 in relation to remote weapons systems. 

By comparison, in over four years of war, Australia has pledged just $23 million in aid to Yemen – the largest man-made humanitarian crisis in the world. 

The Australian Government has stated its ambition to become one of the world's top 10 exporters of weapons within a decade, raising serious questions about the level of transparency and scrutiny around our defence exports.

“Prioritising weapons exports over building Australia’s peace-making capacity in this budget would be a mistake and could come at the expense of lives and livelihoods across the world,” Mr Ronalds said.

“The Government’s priorities are deeply concerning and at odds with Australian values. We should be increasing our investment in aid to help children and families affected by war, not building and exporting weapons that could be making things worse for them.

“I have seen firsthand the incredible capacity Australian aid has to alleviate the suffering of children in conflict zones, of supporting families affected by natural disasters and of helping people living in some of the world’s most impoverished places. It is something we should all be proud of and continue to strengthen.”

For interviews, call Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.

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