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‘Cancel all aid to Indonesia immediately’: Tom Elliott calls for Australia to end foreign aid to neighbour

The launch of an Indonesian government foreign aid program to provide assistance in the Pacific region has been met by furore from some in Australia.

Officials in Jakarta plan to set aside $1 billion for the new Indonesian Agency for International Development by 2021, and distribute $60 million on foreign aid annually under the program.

Indonesia is Australia’s second largest aid recipient, receiving almost $300 million a year in aid in the 2019-2020 budget.

Tom Elliott called for Australia to end foreign aid to the neighbouring country immediately because of the aid program.

“Why on earth are we giving Australian taxpayers money to Indonesia, only for Indonesia to turn around and say ‘look, we actually don’t need that. We’re going to give it to other countries instead’?,’ the 3AW Drive host said.

“It is just ridiculous.

“We should cancel all aid to Indonesia immediately.

“If they have enough money … that they can curry favour with other states in the Asia-Pacific region, by having their own aid program, then they don’t deserve Australia’s aid anymore.”

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But Stephen Howes, a development policy expert at ANU, said Indonesia beginning its own aid program doesn’t mean Australian aid to the country should end.

“It’s a tiny aid program that Indonesia is now setting up,” he said.

“If we want to think about whether we should give aid to Indonesia, and how much, we need to focus on the fundamentals.

“Indonesia is still a very poor country … and it’s a very important neighbour for us, so we have a big interest in Indonesia’s prosperity.

“Eventually Indonesia will graduate, just like other success stories, like Malaysia and Thailand, but that doesn’t mean that it should go to zero now.”

Tom said the money would be put to better use in Australia.

“There’s all sorts of things we could do with that $300 million,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of indigenous people who live third world lifestyles, we’ve got the unemployed, we’ve got pensioners who in the winter can’t afford to switch the heater on and in the summer can’t afford to switch the air conditioner on.”

Indonesia’s gross national income per person is an estimated $5,612 annually, and more than a quarter of the population lives under the Indonesian poverty line, according to the World Bank.

Australian aid to Indonesia has halved over the last five years.

Press PLAY below for more from Stephen Howes.