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Cheers - AE

Friday, 20 August 2010


Still on Australia but leaving election stuff - after one general election to choose between idiots already this year it didn't take long before I was sick of this one - I was interested the other day to read about a controversy with AusAID, which I believe is the Australian version of the UK's Department for International Development. It all sounded so terribly familiar.
Picture this. A government department hands out cash to community activist groups, who in turn use the money to run a campaign to pressure political parties to devote more money to the department.
Ooooh, yes, it's definitely ringing bells.
At minimum, it seems to be a conflict of interest. Foolish, more like it. A betrayal of public trust even. But that's exactly what Australia's overseas aid agency, AusAID, has done.
I'd be appropriately scandalised if it wasn't so often standard procedure in Britain.
Last October, AusAID made grants totalling $1.5 million to various local groups "to raise awareness about global poverty" - a noble sentiment, no doubt, in a world where the gap between rich and poor is an awful blight.

The recipients included Girl Guides Australia - $149,000 for a weekend workshop for 20 young women to learn about the targets set by world leaders in 2000 to tackle poverty and carry out advocacy in their local community. A Rotary Club on the central NSW coast got $27,000 to raise awareness about maternal health, one of the global targets known as the Millennium Development Goals.

But grants were also given in several guises to the campaign known as "Make Poverty History". You might have seen the plastic wristbands people wear. This has been an immensely successful marketing exercise, particularly among young people, gathering in thousands of volunteers and financial donors.

And the No. 1 goal for Make Poverty History is to "accelerate growth in the aid program" - to push the government to devote a larger share of national income to foreign aid. In other words, boost the AusAID budget.
Just as anti drink or anti tobacco groups in Britain get money from the Department of Health to lobby the government and persuade it to 'do something' (usually for the chiiiiiildren), which invariably means the Department needs more money. It's not just bureaucrats empire building and armour plating their jobs, it's like an investment that can't possibly fail, not least because they get to use the taxpayers' money each and every time they do it.
AusAID made a $100,000 grant to the Oaktree Foundation to run a road trip for young people to be Make Poverty History "ambassadors" across the country. The trip took place over a week in early May, gathering signatures for a petition in cities and rural towns and putting on what it boasts are "media stunts" to get attention. Finally, they converged on Canberra, lobbying dozens of politicians over a breakfast.

The problem here isn't the goal of increasing spending on aid - it's the use of taxpayer funds to finance a campaign to pressure elected representatives.
Fucking Johnny Come Latelys. Don't they know that Britain has dozens of fake charities who've been at this for years? I suppose it was only a matter of time before the same people here noticed what a nice little earner this kind of game is, assuming they haven't been doing it for years as well. The only silver lining, and it's a pretty tarnished silver lining, is that it's clearly not just a British scam. To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, foreign countries are like the past - they do things just the same there.
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