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05 September 2015

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I had hoped for some further scintillating discussion but alas, no takers so far. So here's another spray:

The real issue that is constantly obfuscated in the aid debate is hidden in the word ‘percentage’. Many claim Australia should give more when told what percentage of our budget is devoted to overseas aid. Yet how many actually take the time and effort to find out how much of our national cake is already spoken for with Health, Education, Social Security (pensions, etc.), taking up the vast majority of what is or might become available. Our Defence spending has woefully been allowed to subside in a time of increased world tension and where successive PM’s want to strut their stuff on the world stage with the US (here we are bro’) and try to get some glimmer of kudos to turn attention away from their dismal inability to manage our economy and provide true leadership.

The last factor that must be recognised is the inevitable legion of consultants, academics and so called ‘experts’ who glean a rich living from pontificating over whether we (i.e. ‘us’ others) should increase our foreign aid and by how much? How much of their salaries are the highly paid prepared to contribute to a non-focussed objective in a foreign and virtually ungoverned country where the money ends up being corruptly syphoned off into tax havens and personal bank accounts (or Australian properties), without ever achieving any real progress for those it was intended to help?

Have those who seek to influence our collective national aid program taken a constructive look and detailed investigation of what long term benefits of our short term aid programs have actually achieved? An example of what I’m referring to are the projects that purchase machines without any ongoing maintenance program. These are just like giving a useless plastic toy that gives a brief illusion of benefit but in fact only further increases the feeling of despondency when it breaks and falls apart to those who really are looking for sustainable help.

So what’s the answer?

Start educating those who are giving the aid to understand what works and what doesn’t. Mere graphs and manipulated surveys that convey a false impression are only helping to perpetuate the problem. Start educating both those who contribute and those who are supposed to provide effective leadership about the realities of overseas aid. What’s that I hear you say? No votes or stipends in that…..

Olaman! Nogut mi mauswara nating a?

The results of any survey depend on what questions are asked and in what sequence.

Let's go back to over half a century to the origins of the 'Colombo Plan' that began as a concept in 1949. What was the aim of the Colombo Plan? What obvious and lasting effects Australia's continuous overseas aid program has really achieved? Was that due to the phenomenon of what’s known as ‘boomerang aid’ or was it due to the ephemeral effects of something similar to a short term ‘sugar high’? Was our aid to promote ourselves with our neighbours or to influence them politically? Was it to get a warm and fuzzy feeling that we as a so called lucky country could willingly share our good fortune?

If the answer is all these objectives and more then perhaps the real problem is that any process with a multitude of spoken or unspoken objectives often ends up being the proverbial ‘dog’s breakfast’ or a multi cobbled together animal built like ‘topsy’. If the huge amount of aid monies have achieved no long term advantage for Australia but in some cases only caused resentment then maybe we need to revise the concept completely? If our tax money goes to governments who then are able to use their own money to salt away funds in tax havens or even shall we guess, Australian banks, what practical benefits for the people at the grass roots are we really achieving? There’s no way we could or should get into a ‘bidding war’ with other and far larger economies. New Zealand seems to achieve far more with far less than Australia? Why is it someone at the decision making level isn't logically starting to wonder?

The Australian economy is currently not the most robust with an exponentially growing deficit. Successive governments together with union pressure have allowed our manufacturing capacity to become unviable and shipped overseas due to unsustainable wage rises that keep trying to keep pace with inflation caused by previous wage rises. Can we therefore still keep funding overseas aid at the current level when ‘charity begins at home’?

Younger generations referred to as 'X' and 'Y' are reputedly now blaming us Baby Boomers for all the problems of the world and for impossibly expensive housing when they have enjoyed all the benefits we we achieved with hard work and very little wealth and now seem unable to pass these onto the younger generation. Of course that is after the X's and Y's have demanded political change and more of everything without worrying about what that resulted in achieving. Responsibility? What's that in political terms? 'A week's a long time in politics' is a quotation attributed to Britain’s former PM Harold Wilson.

If there is someone who might possibly answer to the title of ‘the average Australian’ they aught surely to start questioning what we are actually doing in reality by allocating scare resources and funding to a ‘pie in the sky’ at a time we can least afford it. However the old obfuscation of ‘bread and circuses’ or today’s ‘football and welfare’ equivalent will surely be able to assuage any concerns within a few nanoseconds even if they appear at all in the proverbial and momentary ‘thought bubble’.

Thank heavens I haven’t become cynical in my senior years……..

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