Despite being the epicentre of growing Covid-19 cases and climate change, the Federal Budget has left Australia and the region exposed.
Save the Children Australia has expressed alarm at the failure of the Federal Budget to accept and respond to the escalating COVID and climate crises in our region.
While Save the Children has welcomed COVID specific measures announced over the last twelve months, we are disappointed that the Federal Budget 2021-22 contains no new, additional investments to tackle the pandemic in our region beyond an immediate package of support for India.
There is also no new, additional investments to tackle the climate crisis in our region such as restarting contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
Both the COVID and climate crises will cause a dramatic rise in poverty, inequality and instability in our region left unaddressed. Yet the Federal Budget reveals Australia's Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget will drop from $4.479B in 2020-21 to $4.335B in 2021-22.
According to the World Bank, it is estimated that 38 million people will fall below the poverty line in the Asia Pacific region alone due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the economies of Pacific Island Countries have shrunk by 11% in 2020.By contrast, the Federal Budget growth forecast for Australia is 5.25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021.
While the Australian Government has offered commendable support to neighbours like PNG to date, Save the Children Australia Deputy CEO, Mat Tinkler said that given the improved economic outlook for Australia, the failure to invest further in the health and stability of our region is a serious missed opportunity.
“A deadly wave of COVID is engulfing our region, and yet aid has dropped in the Budget,” said Mr Tinkler.
“While the immediate support for India is welcome, the looming COVID waves in our region demand a greater and long-term investment to avoid catastrophe.”
“Our borders might be closed, but the risk to Australia and our neighbours of instability caused by COVID cannot be ignored.”
The other glaring omission from the Federal Budget is any substantial plan to address climate change and support developing countries in our region deal with the consequences.
“The Government’s provision for tackling climate change, the greatest challenge of our time, is woefully inadequate,” said Mr Tinkler.
“This Budget neglects Australia’s future and it fails to acknowledge the climate crisis that children in Australia and across our region are already living through.”
“Children and young people are understandably distressed to see the lack of action on climate change, and are demanding to be heard by our leaders.”
“Without addressing climate change there will be more extreme weather events; more bushfires, more floods, more intense cyclones and more droughts, for children to survive.”
“Save the Children welcomes the support for families impacted by the Black Summer bushfires and additional assistance for children’s mental health services. Through our work, we know that children and their families are still dealing with the effects of the bushfires, compounded by the pandemic.
“It is important that the needs of children are included in ongoing responses to the Black Summer bushfires and responses to emergencies.”
Read Save the Children Australia’s 2021-22 Federal Budget submission here.
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