Showing compassion for Australia’s neighbours is important to the Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman.
So she has welcomed the announcement by Opposition Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong that Labor will rebuild Australia’s international development assistance program and increase aid investment beyond current levels.
Ms Templeman said the announcement earlier last month would be supported by many Mountains groups who had lobbied hard to see both the Coalition and Labor commit to higher levels of foreign aid.
“Traditionally there has been a bipartisan approach on foreign assistance,” Ms Templeman said. “Even if the government won’t commit to finding additional funding for foreign aid, we are clear that Labor must.”
Opposition minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong in making the announcement said the Abbott-Turnbull government had overseen the slashing of $11 billion from the International Development Assistance Budget.
Senator Wong said the cuts were a “source of international embarrassment for Australia”.
Ms Templeman recently met with representatives of the Kiribati Climate Action Network and the Kiribati Ministry of Education.
“This is a country where every month the high tides regularly flood the schools and homes, climate change and rising sea levels are wreaking havoc.
“They urgently need Australia to be doing its fair share, yet their aid has been cut by $2.6 million. Kiribati may well become unliveable, even if it never goes under.”
Ms Templeman said it was a country without the resources to look after itself.
“Even if you don’t have a compassionate bone in your body, there are pragmatic reasons for taking steps to maintain stability and ideally prosperity in our wider Asia-Pacific region.”
Matthew Maury, the national director for the volunteer-run Christian advocacy agency TEAR [Transformation Empowerment Advocacy Relief] Australia, told the Gazette they were “really pleased that Labor has made this commitment to restore the aid budget and we are calling on the Coalition to match that”.
“We don’t want it to be a political football in the next election, this is the right thing to do.”
Mr Maury said he would also like to “see it timetabled [by Labor] to how will they achieve that”.
The Blue Mountains has a very active, established TEAR group with an annual fundraising stall at Springwood’s Foundation Day, Mr Maury said.