Condemning a cut in Australian foreign aid is shortsighted

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Australia’s budget landed this week, and with it came a few surprises. The biggest three were the announcements of a surplus, new life saving medicinal additions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and another small reduction in foreign aid.

Like clockwork, though, the budget was met with an uproar from discontent antagonists looking for excuses to impose their own pet causes on the majority of Australian workers. Joining the outrage was condemnation for the reduction in foreign aid.

Such as Eternity news who called it a kick in the teeth to Christians. However, Eternity news left out some key information, choosing instead to cite reactions from a series of Christian leaders including Michael Frost and John Dickson.1

What Eternity failed to include in their takedown of this particular part of the budget was that

“overall, foreign aid will total $4 billion, slightly down from $4.2 billion.” (Source: Primrose Riordan from The Australian).

One stand out example is that Pakistan which gets $40 million; will now only get $20 million because they’re not “doing enough to crack down on militant Islamists [Islamism]”.

In addition: “The LNP has avoided major cuts to funding what it classifies as international development assistance.”2

If we were to apply the parable of the Good Samaritan to the Australian budget, we’d find the current level of funding meets the message head-on.

Look at the increase in funding for Indigenous programs, health, PBS and NDIS. All of which require significant funding. We shouldn’t be quick to forget that Samaritan parable, which echoes the second greatest commandment, to “love our neighbour as we love ourselves”, is fulfilled in these costly programs and the recent additions to them.

I’m no big fan of the current lineup of the Liberal National government, but the decisions included in this budget sets out a balanced application of the second greatest commandment, “love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). This empowers Australians to love and serve our neighbours both here and overseas.

If more funding is needed, why is it that the ABC, who actually kicks Christians in the teeth, is still getting its $1 billion + per year? And why are those who agree with Eternity News’ verdict not calling for a culling of that funding to prop up overseas aid?

It’s pretty much guaranteed that the same people complaining about the small cut in foreign aid, are not willing to see ABC funding reduced to compensate for the blank cheque some seem to want to be allocated to foreign aid.

Being Christlike embraces both a firm “yes” and a loving “no”. When it comes to foreign aid, there needs to be a budgeted amount allocated, but that should be balanced against meeting the immediate needs of our neighbours closer to home.

Every person with a budget knows that to say “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to another.

The same thing applies to foreign aid.  When it comes down to either helping our neighbour get the training, or medicine they need by including funding for lifesaving medicine in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or supporting corrupt governments overseas, who are propped up by misplaced compassion, it’s Christ-like to give to the former, rather than the latter.

People complaining about the reduction, without advocating a significant cut in the ABC or a reduction in big government, are being unfair to the Australian taxpayer.

They are forgetting the huge aid being afforded to infrastructure, agricultural development and health, such as taxpayer investment in apprenticeships, and new important additions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

It doesn’t get much more Christian, than empowering people to serve their neighbour. An act that all of the above includes.

Furthermore, according to The Australian, funding from current cuts to foreign aid is being redirected to the hospitality industry.

We should have a foreign aid budget. We should help where we can, when we can, with what we can. But, sending ourselves broke, or perpetuating suffering closer to home in order to do that, isn’t an application of the Good Samaritan parable.

Proverbs 11:1 makes that choice clear: ‘a false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.’

As I’ve said before, if $4 billion in foreign aid is not enough, cut funding from the ABC, draw funding for foreign aid from that amount. Cutting the overconsumption and excess from the monolithic National broadcaster would reduce government, and allow more room for foreign aid to be directed towards legitimate causes outside of Australia.

The other option is encouraging individual Australians to take responsibility and act. Beginning with encouraging Australians to ditch the Bottle’O or pub once a month, and donate that part of their luxury spending to charities already at work overseas.

Some suggestions include: Open Doors, Compassion, Worldvision, Mercy Ships, Oxfam.

This will do far more good, than increasing taxes, condemning relatively small cuts to foreign aid and raging on social media about a lack of government responsibility.

References:

  1. Both of whom have shown a pattern of only criticizing and condemning issues where doing so doesn’t draw them criticism from the Left.
  2. Primrose Riordan, Foreign Aid Flows to Tourism, The Australian, paper edition, 3rd April 2019

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