Op Ed column about Australia’s Foreign Aid budget being cut to pay for Captain Abbott’s boys’ own adventure in Iraq published

by ray goodlass

My Op Ed column in the Daily Advertiser about Australia’s Foreign Aid budget being cut to pay for Captain Abbott’s boys’ own adventure in Iraq published yesterday.

Here’s the full text:

Aid budget slashed to pay for Iraq war

As Captain Abbott’s team bickers over paying for its boys’ own adventure in Iraq, it has been revealed that the Abbott government’s has in fact abused money allocated for overseas aid programs to pay for military operations in Iraq.

Greens overseas aid spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said “Diverting aid money to pay for the war in Iraq will have fatal consequences”.

To my mind it is strange that one of the few tools we have to secure long term and sustainable stability and therefore peace in any troubled region is being not only ignored, but actively diminished by our government, which persists instead to assert that short term military action is the answer.

Such action that only addresses the symptoms, but not the causes of the instability in the Middle East. Alternatively, well targeted foreign aid that gives a hand up rather than a hand out is the way to ‘win friends and influence people.

Overseas aid is in fact a form of soft diplomacy, and therefore in our interests, though Captain Abbott and company seem oblivious of the ‘bleeding obvious’.

As Senator Rhiannon explained, “Funding humanitarian programs including health, education and sanitation are critical for peace, security and bringing stability to this region.

“Earlier this year the government ended all overseas aid funding to Iraq. Five years ago AusAID provided more than $360 million to Iraq.

“Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has shown that she is a poor advocate for the overseas aid component of her portfolio.

“Once again Australia’s aid budget is being abused and treated like an ATM by the government that is thrashing around for funds for another ill-fated program” conclude Senator Rhiannon.

I had planned to conclude my column this week by going into some detail about Prime Minister Tony Abbott being urged to “correct” his Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has said the Labor opposition should pass stalled budget measures if it is “honest” about supporting the Iraq mission and its associated costs.

Mr Shorten said he was “extremely disappointed” Mr Hockey had “chosen to make the Iraq intervention a source of political point-scoring”.

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“I would ask the Prime Minister to correct the Treasurer, because the Treasurer has made a dreadful statement today,” he said in Melbourne.

But instead of concluding on such a down note of political point scoring I’ll finish with the welcome news that Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian children’s right advocate Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel peace prize on Friday for their advocacy of education rights for children.!

Way to go, Nobel Peace Prize Committee!

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