Guest Post: Julia Gillard, the Millennium DevelopmentGoals, and the Aid Budget

by Max Collison.

When a federal budget is being prepared it’s a fair guess that different interest groups are going to be advocating for more money. It’s also a fair guess that every advocate is going to be wishing they knew someone who had real influence in the budget process.

“If only I could have the ear of Treasurer Wayne Swan for ten minutes, I’m sure he would understand why <insert cause> needs more budget allocation.”

Even better, what if the Prime Minister really ‘got it’ in regards to the issue being raised!!

And this is what I don’t understand—and why I’m writing. I’m writing, because Ms Gillard said she would advocate for the very poorest of the world (which happens to be the cause I’m focused on here). She may be doing it. But if I wait for budget night and it turns out she forgot to advocate…then a lot of people won’t go to school, unnecessarily, and a lot of people will die, unnecessarily.

After the last budget was handed down, where the Gillard government kept Australia’s giving to Foreign Aid at 0.35% of our Gross National Income (instead of moving towards the promised 0.5% of Australia’s GNI to Official Development Assistance by 2015-2016—not mentioning the 0.7% agreed upon by UN members way back in 1970!), Ms Gillard got a new job at the U.N.

Since June 2012, our Prime Minister has been the co-chair of the UN’s “Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Advocacy Group”.

To show what Ms Gillard has committed herself to advocate for, let me quote from the UN website:

Under the Chairmanship of H.E. Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, and H. E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, the Advocates individually, collectively and in small groups engage with Members States, civil society, academia, parliaments, and the private sector to develop new and ground-breaking ideas and ways to accelerate MDG implementation. (Emphasis mine.)

So, this is the PM’s first budget since taking on the job. And she seems keen. In her speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2012, she chose to touch on the MDGs, saying:

Where the world has fallen short of ambitious goals, our response must be action, not disillusion. This is what Australia will do. We will act.

And then she went on to quote some examples of what Australia has done in the past.

But what I’m looking for is what Australia will do.

How will our PM engage with her parliament to accelerate MDG implementation, if not in the budget? We can’t do more—we can’t ‘accelerate’—without more money. And we’ve been promising more money since the 1970 UN General Assembly.

Ms Gillard can advocate in one of two ways. She can be like an English General at Gallipoli, encouraging the others to go ahead (while he stays back). Or she can be like the current British PM, and lead from the front.

In this past March’s budget, the UK—under a Conservative government—kept its promise to raise its Aid budget to 0.7% of GNI.

I think our PM would say that our economy is stronger than the UK’s.

I think our PM would recognise that the Australian Labor Party has its origins in opposing the
‘excesses, injustices and inequalities’ of our current economic system, whereas the Conservative Party in the UK does not.

So, I’m asking our PM: “Show me the money!”

Show us all how being co-chair of the UN’s MDG Advocacy Group means something.

Max Collison is a GP currently practicing in Sydney after a former life seeing how good aid works in Tanzania and Kenya. He is a co-convener of the Hills Justice Project.