“It feels like Australia is not taking its place in the world.”
These words, said in relation to Australian Aid, may have been spoken by Helle Thorning-Schmidt during ABC’s Q&A on Monday night, but there’s no doubt they struck a chord with the audience in the studio, viewers at home and the media.
Adding that Australia should be “big [and] influential” in assisting with humanitarian situations, the former Prime Minister of Denmark and Save the Children International CEO, certainly proved that sometimes, someone from the outside looking in, is capable of shining a light on the truth and the importance of an issue.
While Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, focused on dollar figures and pointed out that despite the biggest cuts to aid ever, Australia contributes $3.8 billion to Australian Aid, Thorning-Schmidt highlighted what makes this country great: the values that define most Australians such as looking out for those most in need.
Now at its lowest level of aid ever, it’s obvious that Australia has the capacity to do more to help people living in the poorest parts of the world. Our leaders are choosing to turn a blind eye as the Government, intent on looking for savings wherever it can, continues to slash money and support from where it believes voters are not looking.
As fellow panelist and the editor-at-large of The Australian put forward: “There is not much political momentum in this country when you look at the overall political debate for increases in Australian foreign aid.”
Our politicians may not see Australian Aid as a priority but the likes of Thorning-Schmidt knows there is more to this discussion than meets the eye, acknowledging that there is “so much compassion… and generosity of spirit in this country.”
She added: “The only thing I can say is when your development is at an all-time low, which it is right now, it feels like Australia is not taking its place in the world.”
And right now, the world needs Australia to take its place as a global leader. The world is desperate for courageous leadership. Australia has the ability to lead the way when it comes to both humanitarian and development aid.
We don’t even need to look too far to see where Australian Aid is needed. Right now, we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. At least 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, and 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria face starvation unless the global community acts now, raising the $5.8 billion the UN says is needed by July to avert famine. Australia has the ability to lead the way by making a bold announcement of funding and calling on other countries to do the same. Or we can continue to do the bare minimum and hope Australians either don’t notice or care.
Last night’s Q&A also addressed climate change and the reality is, decisions of the developed world have led to drought and stood by while conflict has deepened in these countries. We have a moral responsibility to act. This emergency relief would provide immediate food to children and pregnant women so they can breastfeed infants. It helps to respond to the effects of malnutrition and gives people access to healthcare. This funding helps the next generation of people living through this humanitarian crisis and the ability to make a better future, a reality.
As Thorning-Schmidt said at the end of Monday night’s program, “let’s not give up.”
We can help to avert famine if the global community acts now – if you believe Foreign Minister Julie Bishop needs to act boldly and urgently before it’s too late, join over 15K people and sign this petition that calls on Australia to at least double its current contribution levels.
This article was first published in The Huffington Post.