Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Birmingham, recently accused Labor of deceptive practices concerning the foreign aid budget in the October 2022 Budget. He claimed that Labor cut 3.2 billion from the foreign aid budget, only to later reinstate it, thereby taking undue credit. However, a thorough investigation by RMIT ABC Fact Check has debunked this claim, terming it as 'fanciful.'
The Unfounded Claim
Birmingham's argument was centered around the concept of indexation in budgeting, which sees year-on-year spending rise automatically to account for escalating costs. By this logic, a pause in indexation could be seen as a cut in real terms. According to him, Labor removed indexation from the foreign aid budget, leading to a supposed cut of 3.2 billion dollars, which was later reinstated.
Fact Check's Findings
RMIT ABC Fact Check, upon analyzing the claim, found it rooted more in speculation than fact. Their investigation revealed that Birmingham's claim is based on a comparison between two projected budget scenarios over a ten-year period starting from 2027-28. These scenarios compare Labor's assumed spending levels against the former Coalition government's budget, which hypothesized a 2.5 percent annual increase in aid until 2036-37.
Reality Vs. Projection
Fact Check pointed out that there was no concrete evidence of the Coalition's commitment to such indexation, and experts were skeptical about the likelihood of their projections being realized. Furthermore, Fact Check underscored that long-term projections are typically unreliable indicators of actual spending. They also highlighted that foreign aid spending in Australia has seen cuts over the last five years, with the actual spending under the Coalition unlikely to surpass Labor's assumed spending until at least 2030-31. This timeline would witness several federal elections, potentially leading to policy shifts.