Today’s Sydney Morning Herald begins a series of reports that merit close study, beginning with Phantom aid never leaves our shores.
MORE than $600 million of Australia’s foreign aid over the past two years never went overseas but was swallowed up in the coffers of a small Federal Government agency in Pitt Street, Sydney.
This is just one example of a shift in policy under which the Government dresses up as overseas development assistance money that never leaves Australia or is used to prop up its immigration policies.
Help for refugees in Australia, payments to support the “Pacific solution”, and a legal bill at the AWB inquiry are other forms of aid which make the nation appear more generous than it is, a Herald investigation has found.
Tagged in 2006 and 2007 as development assistance to Iraq, the $644 million was used by the Government to argue that the embarrassingly low portion of national income paid in foreign aid had increased. The money was to cover a 17-year-old Iraqi debt. It had been transferred from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the agency in Export House in Sydney in the early 1990s.
“It’s just not real aid for real health, real primary schools, real water wells. It’s just cleaning up a mess,” said Ian Wishart, the national executive director of Plan Australia, one of many agencies that do not agree with counting the debt repayment as aid.
The debt forgiveness, which includes 57 per cent interest accumulated over more than 10 years, has been dubbed “phantom aid” by Mr Wishart and others who monitor the Federal Government’s expenditure.
New analysis by a Sydney-based watchdog contends that a third of the $3 billion being spent on foreign development assistance this year is really phantom aid which either never leaves our shores or has been directed away from poverty alleviation programs overseas…
That just encapsulates the prevailing spirit of the Howard government, and to say it sucks is to put it mildly. For such rampant hypocrisy to masquerade as smart politics just underlines the true bankruptcy of the current regime and explains why I for one really hope the annihilation John Howard is currently attempting to convert into an election-saving rabbit really happens.