This blog post by NSW Labor for Aid member Michael Vaughan originally appeared in Challenge Magazine.
On my first campaign I drove around with four “Kevin 07" flags sticking out the windows of my shabby second-hand car. Like many people, I was full of my hopes for a new Labor government, like our promise to ramp up Australia’s aid program to 0.5 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015.
Ten years later, and some of those hopes feel a little naïve. The conservatives have cut billions of dollars from our aid program. Australian aid is at its lowest ever recorded level at just 0.22 per cent of GNI. That isn’t just an abstract dollar figure – it’s unbuilt schools, unvaccinated kids, and missing disaster relief.
Source: ABC FactCheck
The Liberals have taken Australia down an ugly path, where we disown responsibility for solving even the problems we helped create. They trash climate action domestically and then joke about the existential threat from rising sea levels to our Pacific neighbours. They are happy to bomb Syria and stand by their illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, but ridicule humanitarian aid in the region as a ‘terrorist picnic’.
Labor has to take a different path. We have to maintain hope that Labor will govern out of solidarity with people facing economic injustice, and out of optimism that working together through government we can make a difference. That ‘defining mission’ to tackle inequality, as Bill Shorten has described it, rings hollow if its urgency somehow vanishes at our national borders.
That means we need an ambitious commitment to rebuild Australian aid.
Labor for Aid is a cross-factional group of party members and supporters who are following the model of LEAN, Rainbow Labor and others to build grassroots momentum within the party. We have organisers in every state and territory who are recruiting volunteers, passing motions through local branches, and organising campaign events.
Our current National Platform doesn’t commit the next Labor Government to specific growth in aid. When the 2018 ALP National Conference adopts a new platform, it should ask Labor to:
- Commit to the principle that we should be moving towards 0.7% of our Gross National Income on aid (the UN target that the UK has already reached);
- Increase aid as a percentage of GNI every year that we are in office starting with our first budget;
- Make advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, including reducing global poverty, the core purpose of the aid program.
If you agree that we need to rebuild Australian aid, then get involved:
- Pass a campaign motion at your local branch or sub-branch. You can find our campaign motion at www.laborforaid.org.au/motion
- Sign our online petition and volunteer on our website: www.laborforaid.org.au
- Like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/LaborForAid)
I’m ready to get excited about a new Federal Labor Government. Domestically, our strong narrative around inequality is backed up with detailed policy, like reforms to negative gearing. Our plans for Australia’s place in the world should reflect those same values and ambition, starting with a commitment to rebuild Australian aid.