Two things happened in last night’s budget speech. The first was that the Morrison Government made their pitch for re-election. In projecting a solid budget suprlus, the Coalition promised to put the economy back on track. This budget gushed with tax cuts, major infrastructure projects, small business incentives, energy assistance payments, much needed assistance to the States for health spending, and so on. Man, the plate was running over, and the Treasurer was beaming!
Frydenberg obviously relished his pumping refrain “…and we did all this without raising taxes”. I mean, it does look good, doesn’t it? Heading back to surplus, a reinvigorated Government, a better chance of success in the polls?
It was a good look, except for the world’s poorest.
Frydenberg’s refrain could easily have been “…and we’ve done all this without thinking about the world’s poorest.”
Last night’s budget would have done better to leave the foreign aid at its current levels. But it didn’t even do that. It cut another $121m out of our aid programs. Reduced it.
While we get tax cuts, a healthy surplus, and relief on our energy bills, we decided to do less for the world’s poorest.
“…and we’ve done all this without thinking about the world’s poorest.”
What we need to realise is that we could have increased our foreign aid contributions and still have done everything else last night.
We can relate to Micah’s Tim Costello lamenting, How much do we need to have before we can again be more compassionate? Our Aid budget is now the least generous we have ever been.
Last November, as 200 Micah volunteers met with Australian parliamentarians, we were told that the argument for a modest rise to Foreign Aid was compelling. That’s what Tony Abbott told us. And Josh Frydenberg. And numerous others in the coalition. Today, those commitments count for nothing.
There are many people who will believe last night’s Budget got it right. They’ll talk about how we have to look after our own first. Who hasn’t heard someone say the farmers need it more than someone overseas?
The reality is it’s not a matter of choosing whether to help the farmers or an aid project. We have enough in the kitty now to help both. Even so, last night Australia said, “we’ll take more, and give the world’s poorest less.” Even though we are the richest nation per capita on the face of the earth. The richest. Giving less to the poor.
For those who follow Jesus this is unconscionable. Unthinking. Uncaring. UnChristian.
Jesus reminds us that we’re blessed when we love anyone in need. That it’s better to give than receive. That the heart of God is close to the poor, and those who better themselves at their expense will be held to account:
““Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” (Exodus 22:22–23, NIV)
It is hard to contemplate a family continuing to eat their roast dinner while they know people 10 houses down are at risk of their life. Shouldn’t they step in? Wouldn’t they want to? Wouldn’t you? Of course, any good neighbour would. Last night our leaders said that didn’t matter too much.
True: maybe we’re becoming less of what we really want to be. And Tim Costello is right: “This is not who we are as a nation.”