MORE than 150 entertainers, business executives, politicians and community leaders have signed an open letter demanding that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, keep her promise to boost Australia’s overseas aid.
Must keep her promise … Julia Gillard. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The government is committed to lifting aid spending to 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015 but there are reports it will renege on the undertaking to help deliver a surplus in next Tuesday’s budget.
The letter focuses on the issue of trustworthiness, a political weak spot for Gillard.
- PDF: Open letter to the Prime Minister – Australians keep their word
”It is up to you to prove that when Australia makes a promise, we keep it,” the letter says.
Australia’s aid spending is now 0.35 per cent of national income – about $4.8 billion – but at the last election Labor promised that it would reach 0.5 per cent by 2015. The coalition also committed to the target.
Among the letter’s signatories are entertainers Hugh Jackman, Geoffrey Rush, Missy Higgins and the Wiggles.
Rush, the Australian of the Year and a UNICEF ambassador said: “We have made enormous progress in the battle against poverty. Australia must not cede the commitment to aid that is held across the political spectrum.”
Harold Mitchell is among more than a dozen business figures to sign the letter.
“The Australian economy is still strong and we must meet our promises to the world’s poor,” he said.
Mr Mitchell is joined by senior executives from Macquarie Bank, Qantas, Telstra, Yahoo7 and Deloitte. The former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and former Labor premier of NSW Kristina Keneally have also signed.
The letter says that keeping the promise on aid could save an extra 800,000 lives over the next four years.
“Prime Minister, we hear this will be a tough budget and reports say that aid spending is on the hit list,” it says. “But we cannot balance the books with the lives of the world’s poor.”
The Greens will put pressure on the government on budget day over aid spending by introducing a motion in both houses of Parliament calling on all parties to “reaffirm” support for the aid target.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said yesterday that he would try to use his vote in the House of Representatives to hold the government to its aid promise.
“You can’t tell me one of the richest and luckiest countries in the world cannot find half of 1 per cent of national income,” he said.
A delegation of aid agency leaders will meet the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, today and tell him increasing aid to 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015 is seen as a core election promise that should not be broken.