Australia's Catholic bishops have attacked the Coalition's planned foreign aid cut, saying the proposed $4.5 billion 'clawback' was like a rich man chasing a beggar to recover crumbs from his table, reports The Age.
John Ferguson, executive officer of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, said the policy, unveiled just two days before Saturday's federal election, was unworthy of a civilised nation.
'Twenty per cent of the world's poorest live in our region. It's clear that Australia is the rich man and Lazarus is at our gates,' Mr Ferguson said, referring to Jesus' story of the rich man and the sore-covered beggar Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke.
'A reduction in aid funding could be seen as the rich man pursuing Lazarus to take back the crumbs that have fallen from the banqueting table,' he said.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference's annual social justice statement, issued yesterday, said it was a critical time in the fight against world poverty. Mr Ferguson said: 'The prevailing policy pursued by this government and its predecessor is of doubtful moral worth. At its worst it strikes at the compassionate response normally associated with a civilised nation.'
He said that under the Coalition policy Australia would spend only 32¢ of every $100 of gross domestic income on foreign aid, less than half the international standard for developed countries of 0.7 per cent.
Bishop Christopher Saunders, the social justice chairman, said Australia had a seat on the UN Security Council and would host the G-20 economic summit next year. 'Our nation has a historic opportunity to be a force for peace and generosity. The government's proposal to cut $4.5 billion from the forward estimates for foreign aid represents a serious departure from Australia's commitment. What are we to say to those in extreme poverty who lie like Lazarus at our gate?' he said.
Photo: An Indonesian schoolgirl brushes her hair in the doorway of her home in the Bantar Gebang rubbish village
FULL STORY Australian bishops slam foreign aid cuts