Micah Australia is hailing recent Labor Party policy announcements as evidence that the organisation is “cutting through” with its lobbying efforts.
On day one of the ALP’s National Conference, it was announced that a Shorten Labor government would increase Australia’s contribution to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees by $500 million over five years. This funding would help build the UNHCR’s capacity to resettle displaced refugees, by boosting staff, facilities, and training.
Day two of the conference saw the announcement that a Shorten Labor Government would increase aid as a percentage of gross national income every year, and set a long term funding target of 0.5% of GNI. The Opposition did not commit to a timetable for this increase, however.
Rev. Tim Costello is Micah Australia’s Executive Director. He welcomed the announcements.
“Our policy ask regarding funding to the UNHCR was clear at Voices for Justice – we asked that Australia should increase its funding to the UNHCR, from $25 million per annum to $100 million per annum,” Rev Costello said.
The aid commitment, he said, was a “step in the right direction, and one that the Christian community has been advocating on passionately and persistently this year.”
The policy announcements closely follow Voices for Justice, Micah Australia’s annual conference, which sees Christians lobby parliament for more and better commitment to Australia’s aid budget. The 2018 conference saw 94 meetings between delegates and politicians. A roadmap to rebuilding Australia’s foreign aid budget and increased funding for Australia’s contribution to the UNHCR were some of the conferences key asks of politicians from all parties.
Micah Australia are hoping for a bipartisan commitment on aid and Australia’s commitment to the UNHCR.
“For years politicians on both sides have promised to rebuild Australian Aid once the surplus was regained,” Rev. Costello said.
“With MYEFO now showing we are on track for a return to surplus in 2019-2020, there are no more excuses.”
“MYEFO would have been the perfect opportunity for the Coalition to outline its own plans to rebuild Australian aid but instead there were no details on any new aid commitments.
“Instead we have The Australian reporting that it understands the Coalition plans to find $80 billion of savings through further cuts to the foreign aid budget between now and 2028-2029. If true this would be very concerning indeed.”
The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton dismissed the UNHCR policy announcement as “nothing but subterfuge from Labor” and an “acknowledgement that Labor does not have the mettle to maintain the tough policies needed to protect our nation’s borders.”
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor