Like most Aussies, I believe we have a moral obligation to share our good fortune with those less fortunate, although some Australians live in what has to be called third world conditions right here, right now! I don’t think anyone actually knows exactly how much we give to other countries, because it is so broken up between different government departments, and made up of so many different elements from people to military equipment, but rarely, if ever, produce from our farmers, or Australian made products. And, in my humble opinion, the latter should make up the bulk of our foreign aid, not cash which disappears into dictator’s bank accounts. Most of us would tip a few dollars in the can for those poor starving souls we see on Television every night, but that is not who is actually benefitting from our largess, under the present system.
I question whether we have a right, let alone a responsibility, to provide any military aid to anyone. Beyond New Zealand, the US, UK and Europe, there is no guarantee that, in this crazy world we live in, our troops won’t end up facing weapons and training that we have provided! US troops sure have, and that is a matter of public record. I’m not pointing fingers and I don’t know anything more that most do, it’s just practical observation and common sense. But this plan does not relate to military aid, it is about getting the most value, for Australia and those with whom we choose to share our good fortune, from our foreign aid dollars. Instead of financing those who oppress their people, we provide what the needy want and the corrupt in those nations can’t use. And, we benefit Australians and the Australian economy while we are doing it!
By channelling those many, many millions, if not billions, of dollars to some of our Australian farmers, for produce, and to our factories for clothing and much needed equipment, which we can then ship to the genuinely poor and needy, we can provide greatly needed stimulus at home, while providing real aid to those to whom we intended to donate to. Instead of cursing us for arming the uncaring oppressors who rule them so ruthlessly, the cold and hungry will bless the green and gold kangaroo on their bags of corn, on their blankets and on their sheltering tents. The second part of the plan is, yet again, no more than common sense. The fact that we are the world’s largest island nation, yet have the world’s 50th largest merchant navy is a National disgrace. Instead of paying billions to have our charity delivered, we should build our own merchant navy.
Of course this concept does not cover all our foreign aid obligations. We have to send personnel and sometime troops with weapons, to aid our allies, to keep our nation and our waters safe and to help rebuild shattered nations, after a natural disaster or a civil war. All of these efforts require people, not products. The aid I speak of is the real money that our government hands over to leaders of other governments, even if they don’t conform to our society’s rules, or meet their human rights obligations. Again, no finger pointing, but I recall quite a few leaders in the past who have been showered with hard cash and turned out to be totally ruthless dictators, who were using our money to keep their people in shackles. Few, of us support those kinds of regimes, our money should not go to them without any accounting, as is the case today.
Giving money to our farmers, to grow food for the hungry, to our factories so they can make what the less fortunate need, like farming implements, water systems and the like, as well as to our ship builders, so we can transport all of this to the countries we seek to help, in our own ships, makes absolute sense. Of course it would see some bureaucrats lose their jobs, a bit of this so-called retrenchment just might do them the world of good. I really can’t see that our foreign office or its policies are all that good for Australia right now. Given our geographic location and small population, we should be emulating the Swiss in world war two. Staying neutral. However, we can make an emphatic political statement with our choice of who we donate to, and how we go about giving that aid. Foreign aid through our farms and factories is the best way to do that.
While it is right to share our prosperity with others, while I do recognise and accept that Australia has international obligations, we share this planet with so many, there is that old edict that says “Charity begins at home”. We have thousands of homeless people, of all ages, in all our major cities, as well as thousands of Indigenous Australians who are still living in what can only be described as ‘third world’ conditions, right here in Australia! I firmly believe that we need to dedicate far more of our society’s generosity toward those Australians who are doing it real tough. There is no doubt that education is the key word, but it doesn’t mean much, unless it comes with some decent health services, housing and the amenities most of us are used to. I guess it depends on whether we want to just ‘show the world’ that we are great humanitarians, or actually be great humanitarians.