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Australian aid budget at all-time low

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Foreign aid is set to plummet to its lowest level as a proportion of the nation’s income.

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A further $224 million will be cut in the 2016/17 financial year, bringing the aid program to $3.8 billion.

That represents 0.22 per cent of national income – an all-time low.

The aid program is still reeling from the $1 billion stripped away in last year’s budget, the single biggest annual cut on record.

In three years $11 billion has been taken for bottom-line savings.

Indonesia and other Asian countries copped a 40 per cent aid hit, while African countries were gutted by a 70 per cent cut.

But aid to struggling Pacific island nations was mostly quarantined.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists Australian aid should focus on the immediate region.

The Australian Council for International Development says the cuts have decimated programs preventing the spread of HIV in Indonesia, training for midwives, support to Cambodia’s criminal justice system and disaster risk management in the Philippines.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently gave Australia and Portugal the wooden spoon for being the biggest aid-cutting countries in the world.

CARE Australia chief executive Julia Newton-Howes said it was difficult to comprehend why Australian leaders couldn’t see how early investments saved money in the long run.

“Stepping in early prevents the emergencies we’re seeing with people starving and millions on the move,” she told AAP.

Australia will this year start to count the costs of military and police deployments in natural disasters and peacekeeping contributions as part of its aid budget.

AAP

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