AusAID Cuts

I spoke in parliament about cuts to AusAID:
Government is about choices and those choices tell us a lot about people's values. A top priority of this government is to give a $4 billion tax cut to mining billionaires. The beneficiaries will be among the world's richest people. At the same time, this government is cutting over $4 billion from aid to the world's poorest people. That cut will affect aid workers, too. We have seen this government forcibly integrate AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a botched process with little care for the passionate development workers who have been involved. We saw a terrible initial briefing in which AusAID workers were herded like cattle into the middle of the DFAT auditorium, while those in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade looked down upon them from the atrium and one of the DFAT officials reportedly mimed machine-gunning the AusAID staff.

We have also seen this government breaking its pledge to new graduates who had accepted jobs with AusAID. There was an assurance from Minister Eric Abetz that, despite Public Service cuts, the government would continue to support graduate recruitment but that pledge has been broken. The government has terminated the contracts of about 20 graduates, many of whom had turned down offers from other agencies and had signed contracts with AusAID. Georgia BurnsWilliamson said:

'When I was first hired it was one of the most exciting days of my life. … AusAID was my dream job.'

She had quit her job as a tutor at the University of Melbourne and had passed the security clearance. She also said:

'It's like being told you've won the lottery and then someone saying, 'Oh sorry, we've made a mistake'.'

Darwin-born Michael Currie had accepted a job with AusAID and then rejected offers of graduate programs at two other government departments. He said:

'I thought I was doing the right thing telling them so they could give those offers out to the other candidates.'

Emily Hadgkiss, 27, had resigned as a researcher in public health at a hospital in Melbourne. She said:

It was a surprise to me that that decision was made.

She says she was 'aware there'd be changes and cuts' but that those were not supposed to affect the graduate program. As Georgia BurnsWilliamson put it:

'The bigger loss is all the people in developing countries who desperately need aid for basic services who are now going to miss out because there's been such a cut to the budget.'

This government has broken its promise to these young Australians and it is going to hurt the world's poorest in order to help some of the world's richest.

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8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au