reasons for voting green #5: foreign aid
It's been a busy few days around here, but now it's time to get back into analysing why I'm comfortable voting green this election.
As I mentioned last post, last Thursday night Frank and I went to a 'Make Poverty History' forum and heard from each of our local candidates about their party's policy on foreign aid. To quickly review: The Hon Geoff Lyons (Labor member for Bass) outlined the work of Australia's foreign aid around the world and reiterated Labor's policy of meeting the Australian commitment to give 0.7% GDP by 2016/17 to help meet the Millennium Development Goals. Mr Andrew Nikolic (Liberal candidate for Bass) outlined how important a role the military play in the provision of foreign aid, and stated the Liberal policy of focusing foreign aid on our local Asia-Pacific region because this will have the greatest benefit for us in terms of peace and stability. Ms Lucy Landon-Lane (Australian Greens candidate for Bass) pointed to the Greens' ongoing commitment to increase Australia's foreign aid to 0.7% GDP by introducing levies on mining companies and the big banks.
I was pleased to hear what Australia's foreign aid is achieving (here's a postcard from Micah Challenge with a very brief summary of achievements - click through to the second page for the figures), but it is disappointing that Labor thinks our promise to give 0.7% GDP can be continually pushed back to suit our own economic needs. I was pretty appalled by Andrew Nikolic's constant reference to the military and by the way he linked foreign aid with national benefit for Australia. I wonder if it can even be considered aid if our national interests are the main motivation for our giving, rather than a compassionate response to extreme poverty in any part of the world. I find the Greens' policy most aligned with what the bible has to say on helping the poor.
Here's a very brief overview of a few of the things the bible has to say about the poor.
In Leviticus 19 and 23, Israel is given instructions to leave some fruit in their vineyards and grain in their fields for the poor and foreigners to gather after the harvest. Deuteronomy 15 has quite a lot to say about helping the poor - debts are to be cancelled at the end of the seventh year (v1), help those you come across who are in need, open your purse to them (v7,8), give freely and spontaneously (v10), and always be generous to those who are poor and hurting (v11). Psalm 140:12 says God is on the side of victims and cares for the rights of the poor. Proverbs 14:31 says God is insulted when the poor are insulted, but God is honoured when people are kind to the poor. Proverbs 28:27 exhorts the reader to be generous to the poor. In Luke 4 Jesus proclaimed that he had come to bring good news to the poor, and (in a widely sweeping, unreferenced, broad brush stroke) the ultimate biblical vision for the transformation of all things is a world in which there is no sadness, pain, hunger, thirst, exploitation or poverty.
The biblical ideal is for the poor to be treated with respect, and compassion, and ultimately that poverty will be overcome. The Greens' foreign aid policy dovetails beautifully with this biblical ideal.
I'll be voting Green because the Greens have a policy of giving to the poor in other countries because it is the right thing to do.
(I realise this is a very, very, very brief overview... with more minutes in a day I would expand further. If it interests you - go dig into the Greens Overseas Aid policy and the bible. It's all very interesting.)