STEVE LEWIS | News Limited Network | Extract
WIDESPREAD ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION in Papua New Guinea and billions of dollars funnelled into unaccountable global bodies has prompted the Australian Coalition to slash $4.5 billion from foreign aid.
Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop has also questioned AusAID's "priorities" after learning the agency splurged $1 million on a two-day "mining for development" conference in Sydney.
In the biggest change to foreign aid for years, the Coalition will effectively freeze AusAID's budget at $4 billion and flagged plans to redirect billions of dollars from the existing budget.
The Opposition has abandoned plans to lift foreign aid spending to a benchmark 0.5% of gross national income - a target announced by Kevin Rudd in 2007 and which had received bipartisan support until now.
Ms Bishop expressed "concern at the rapid growth" in aid spending and signalled plans to slash spending to United Nations agencies and bodies like the African Development Bank.
The West Australian MP said she had been made aware of "allegations of corruption" surrounding Australia's $400 million a year program in PNG.
In the past few weeks, claims have emerged of widespread corruption among senior officials and government ministers in PNG who have allegedly been using public money to buy properties in Australia.
Ms Bishop said allegations surrounding Australia's nearest neighbour were "deeply concerning" and be the subject of intense scrutiny if the Coalition wins office.
Meanwhile, Ms Bishop is understood to be ready to fly to Indonesia and PNG within days if the Coalition wins power at today’s national election and she becomes Australia's new foreign minister.