The merger of AusAID into DFAT has resulted in a torrent of wailing by the aid industry. One of the most egregious interventions was by the executive director of ActionAid Australia, Archie Law.
In an interview about the Government’s decision to merge AusAID into DFAT, Law said the decision would have
massive and devastating effects [on the Australian aid program and is] the third strike in the triple whammy [of the Coalition Government].
There is a conflict because then you get into this ridiculous discussion around how aid is a part of a global relationship to lift people out of poverty but it’s actually all about trade. This has been the dominant narrative from conservative politics for the last 20 years.
I think AusAID has performed very well over the years. It’s been difficult dealing with the scale-up, but there’s a single driving force in there to work with people living in poverty and transform their lives. You can’t neatly align that with Australia’s national economic and political interests.
Unfortunately, I was with the United Nations in New York when Australia had this sort of policy before, and Australia wasn’t highly regarded on the international stage.
We’re in the middle of a busy 18 months where Australia could emerge with a lot of pride and respect in [sic] international community. These three big announcements over the last two weeks do nothing but really trash our international reputation.
Before joining ActionAid, Law worked for many years at the United Nations Development Program. He enjoyed a tax-free income and a lifestyle world’s apart from those in poverty.
According to ActionAid’s financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2012, it received government grants of $6.85 million out of total revenue was $11.29 million (60.7%) of which AusAID provided $3.8 million in grants (an increase in AusAID’s funding over the previous year of 23.2%).
Of the remainder, $3.22 million are tax-deductible donations. So this has resulted in a loss-to-revenue of around $1.29 million.
Effectively the taxpayer has funded $8 million out of the $11 million in 2012 – one could argue that Law is a de facto public servant. As noted in the accounts,
Historically the bulk of ActionAid Australia’s income has come from government grants.
Here is an organisation that is, for all intents and purposes, a government organisation. I hope the Government reconsiders it 2013 grant to ActionAid. Clearly these public servants are unable to work with the new government and limited aid resources should be deployed to those more capable of working with the new government.