Rob Buckingham's Blog

Joyce Dumps Aid – At What Cost?

I struggle with this comment for a number of reasons, mainly because it buys into an attitude of selfishness that pervades Australian thinking at times.  “Why should we help others when we have so many problems of our own?”  In no way do I wish to minimize the problems of Australians – our church spends a lot of time, money and energy helping disadvantaged people in our community – but we do need to get our problems into perspective.  Even the poorest person in Australia is in the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.  That’s right, 92% of the world is worse off than the poorest Australian. Tonight, more than one billion people are going to bed hungry because of a shortage of food.  Few, if any, of that one billion people are Australian.

Australia currently lags well behind other nations in terms of its foreign aid commitment. Australia gives less than 40 cents for every $100 earned across the economy compared to 60 cents in the UK and almost 80 cents in Denmark and Belgium.

Senator Joyce's comments appear to be at odds with a bipartisan commitment from the Coalition and Labor to boost foreign aid to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI) by 2015. In 2009-10, Australia is expected to provide $3.8 billion worth of official development assistance – an increase from 0.32% of GNI in 2008-09 to 0.34% – which amounts to about one per cent of Federal Government expenditure.

And that is as it should be.  We are a very prosperous, very blessed nation.  It is unjust – and unchristian – that we should simply consume all of our prosperity upon ourselves.  But neither does the Bible teach us to ignore our problems in the pursuit of helping of others.  It’s not either/or – it’s both.  This truth is clearly summarized by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:4, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I’m sure I’ll continue to agree with Senator Joyce on many issues in the future.  But this time I believe he got it seriously wrong.

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