Positive signs on aid from PM and Cabinet

Strategically loitering (with intent to lobby) before the commencement of the community cabinet in Perth we managed to catch up the Prime Minister Julia Gillard. We also talked to several cabinet ministers and other politicians to ask them to keep their promise to increase foreign aid.

This was the second time Oxfam UWA president and Vice President (Kathryn Richards and Nanwen Sounness – pictured) and myself had caught up with the cabinet in Perth. As always, we found many staunch Make Poverty History supporters in their ranks.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was in good form. She has natural warmth, which does not always come over on television, and is a seriously good listener. The Attorney General, Minister Mark Dreyfus said he was the man who got the Millennium Development Goals up as official ALP policy. Senator Louise Pratt as always, gave unequivocal support. Parliamentary Secretary Melissa Parke (who last year opened a Make Poverty History exhibition) is a great champion of global issues and believes Australia should give its fair share in aid. Minister Gary Gray is just as committed and a member of the local Mandurah Oxfam Group. Likewise Minister Julie Collins proved to have a strong social justice commitment.

Global aid has helped save over 14 000 lives a day since 1990 and we want to see Australia contribute its fair share to this effort. We are asking Australia to increase foreign aid to 70 cents in every $100 dollars of national income (a United Nations target) by 2020. As a step forward we want the government to keep their promise to increase aid to 50 cents in every $100 by the 2016 budget. They previously promised this increase in 2015 but delayed aid commitments by one year at the last budget. To realistically reach the 2016 target we need to see at least a small increase in aid in the coming May budget.

Our hope now is that these great voices in cabinet, along with over a thousand of people who have recently lobbied in Canberra, and tens of thousands who have signed up to the movement to end poverty will be enough to encourage the government to get back on track with aid increases, and change the lives of thousands of people living in poverty.

Paddy Cullen is Campaigns Coordinator for Western Australia

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