Foreign Aid Makes Australia Safe

The Australian Federal Government says that helping our neighbouring countries transition people out of poverty “will be important for Australia’s economy and security.”

Giving money for the purpose of aid, development and education is not just a nice thing to do, it’s not just about creating more customers who are able to buy more of our exports, but it makes the world a safer place.

We know that when there is a higher proportion of people living in poverty in developing countries, who have little to no opportunities to improve their lives, the region will become unstable, and young people will become “prone to radicalisation, and susceptible to the influence of countries and ideas at odds with Australia’s interests”.

So we must act, because if we don’t “create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of grinding poverty, instability will grow and people will continue to seek refuge from violence and economic hardship on our shores.”

It sounds blunt, and it’s not the only reason why Foreign Aid is important, but if we want to stop the rise of radicalisation, violence and refugees seeking asylum, giving aid to the countries around us will do that. In fact, we should be giving more.

Foreign Aid is Good for our Farmers

There are parts of our community that continues to ask the following question:

Why are we giving away $4b in aid when our farmers are struggling?

At first glance it casts Australia’s Foreign Aid budget in a questionable light. But it is horribly short sighted.

Australia exports over $430 billion worth of goods to the rest of the world, and much of it goes to Asia. The majority of wheat grown in Australia is sold overseas, with the major markets in Asia and the Middle East. Annually, it brings in about $2.4b.

Imagine if every country in Asia had worked their way out of poverty and had the capacity to purchase more? Countries such as Thailand and South Korea were once aid recipients and are now among Australia’s 10 largest trade partners.

In short, there is a very good reason to look after your customers. Treat them well and they will become repeat customers. If you provide a way for them to improve their lives so they can buy more wheat and meat products from Australian farmers then that just makes good economic sense.  That’s it.

We Must Look After Our Own First

“Surely charity begins at home and surely we must look after our own first.”

“We must take care of our own country before we could even consider taking care of somebody else.”

In an attempt to be part of the active conversation around foreign aid and its complexity, here are a few thoughts as to why the above comments, which seem accurate, are wrong. There are so many reasons why we need to reconsider how we look at the issue of foreign aid.

Firstly, and not for nothing, but ‘charity begins at home’ actually comes from the concept that charity gets taught to kids first in their home, that’s where we learn about helping others. It’s not a statement about how our care and concern for other humans must be, first and foremost, on the people that happen to live within the same arbitrary borders as us, and anyone who doesn’t fit into that just has to wait in line.

Secondly, the more money that we put in the places that are so close to us, that would just about be considered Australia, the better off we are. Take Indonesia, for example, the more money that we can put towards their education system, creating a better educated society, increased economic growth and a more stable region. We know that Indonesia will become the 4th biggest economy in the world over the next 20 years, so it makes economic sense to help end poverty there. Surely we can all agree that increased economic growth and stability in Indonesia and the Asian region as a whole is a good thing?

As the Australian Government says:

“Helping poor people out of poverty in areas of strategic importance for Australia is also good for our own peace and stability. Of Australia’s 24 nearest neighbours, 22 are developing countries with some of them particularly fragile and vulnerable.”

Next: let’s look at why Foreign Aid is good for our farmers.

Oops, I Did it Again

I know not to read the comments. I know that.

It’s something that I tell other people about social media – “Don’t read the comments!”

But, well I forgot for some reason. I don’t know why. When I came across a meme featuring Prime Minister Scott Morrison, put together by people bemoaning about how Australia gives $4 billion worth of foreign aid to other countries and not to our struggling farmers, I should have kept scrolling. But I didn’t. Rookie mistake.

The comments were different versions of “this is disgraceful, let’s look after our own first!” and of course “Charity begins at home!”, not to mention numerous comments on how awful all of our ‘corrupt’ politicians are.

As I read through these comments from people, whom I would consider ignorant and uneducated on the wider issues around foreign aid and global economics, I was stuck. I disagreed with everything that was being said and much was based on misinformation, which made me angry. I imagined that the type of people who are commenting would be those who are unwilling to change their opinion, or have an educated discussion, or any sort of discussion with anyone who disagreed with them without it turning into an argument with personal attacks and name-calling.

I found myself asking, if generosity is what I talk about and seek to live out, how can I be generous to these people? What does generosity look like in this situation?

I think it starts with self-reflection and asking some hard questions.

Am I willing to change my opinion?

Do I get argumentative with people who disagree with me?

How can I serve the discussion around issues where there is conflict?

The answer to the first two questions is ‘it depends’, which is a deeper conversation for another time.

The third question about how I can serve the discussion, the answer is to participate in it, which is what the next post will be about…