I GUESS there aren’t too many major hits for Papua New Guinea in last night’s Federal budget – not compared with the burden placed on rank and file Aussies anyway.
But there are some mild side effects I should mention.
First, there's a reduction of $7.6 billion over the next five years in the total overseas aid budget, which takes Australia well below the target originally agreed for helping countries meet the millenium development goals.
In a sneaky move, Australia will now tie its aid budget to the consumer price index, not gross domestic product. What this means in layman's terms is a net reduction – and a big one – in its overall aid program.
"We are going to be looking at a 10% reduction in our aid by the time we get to 2015-16," says Professor Stephen Howes from the Australian National University, who also points out that this is very different from what the government took to the election – another one of Tony Abbott’s many broken promises.
The good news is that this does not appear to affect aid to Papua New Guinea, which has seen an increase in Australian money in return for hosting the Manus Island asylum seekers processing centre.
Reward, bribe, blood money, call it what you will.
Secondly, the ABC’s Australia Network is to be axed. This is the Australian TV network beaming to millions of people in the Pacific and SE Asia, providing an Australian perspective on news, current affairs, English language tuition and information on Pacific and other local interests, as well as a dose of Australian entertainment.
By all accounts the Australia Network is well-received by viewers (perhaps you could give us some feedback), often giving them the only outside perspective on their country’s affairs.
The Sky (Murdoch majority owned) TV network has long has its eyes on the Australia Network. So this could be payback for the previous government awarding the contract to the ABC or simply a tribal hit on an organisation the Abbott government doesn’t much case for.
We'll have to wait and see what the full effects of the Australian budget may have on our Pacific neighbours. But I don't think is the last we have heard about cut-backs and restrictions to Australian involvement in the Pacific arena.
You can catch some useful analysis of the budget on these websites: