Fears over further aid cuts

The CEO of The Fred Follows Foundation, Brian Doolan, said today he remained deeply concerned by reports Australian aid funding would be further slashed by the Federal Government.

Mr Doolan said it is essential that Australia does not walk away from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s commitment to aid as the flagship of Australian foreign policy.

“We cannot afford any further erosion to Australian aid on top of the massive changes already imposed, particularly when aid only makes up just over 1 per cent of the entire Federal Budget,” Mr Doolan said.

“Why would we cut programs which are curing people of blindness, getting kids into schools and stopping the spread of diseases like Ebola?”

“Australia’s aid commitment is not a magic pudding that can be dished up time and again to pay for endless budget shortfalls.

“On behalf of millions of people around the world who rely heavily on Australia’s support for their most basic needs, The Fred Hollows Foundation, together with other Australian aid agencies, are asking the government to keep its word.”

The most recent cuts to forward aid commitments forced The Foundation to axe programs in Indonesia, China, Vietnam and within Africa to cope with a $1.9 million shortfall in federal funding.

The Foundation recently axed a program in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam that would have screened up to 20,000 people and restored sight to up to 2,300 people after the Australian Government suddenly withdrew support.

“That meant people who should have had their eyesight restored have remained blind,” he said.

Mr Doolan said Australian aid organisations were already struggling to cope with a $7.6 billion cut over five years to Australian aid commitments.

“The spectre of more cuts should be of concern to all Australians – it is appalling that this could even be canvassed as an option once again, especially in light of the Foreign Minster’s new framework for aid and her leadership in this area.” 
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