Australian aid to Indonesia falls by half

DFAT's Frances Adamson says Australia is working with Indonesia on health, economics and stability.
DFAT's Frances Adamson says Australia is working with Indonesia on health, economics and stability.

Australia's aid spending on Indonesia has been more than halved over the past six years and didn't receive a coronavirus boost.

Foreign affairs officials confirmed on Thursday the total figure fell from $515 million in 2014/15 to the $255 million budgeted this financial year.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong questioned why this year's spend was the same as last year during a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra.

"You may talk about we're getting the dollar to go further, but we've substantially reduced our contribution to a nation whose prosperity and stability is pretty central to our own," she said.

She said noted Indonesia was facing significant pressure from coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia's development response plan for Indonesia was responding to the pandemic.

"We have absolutely recognised the challenge Indonesia faces from COVID-19," she said.

She said policy and technical advice was being provided on the health response, expanding social safety nets and economic recovery.

DFAT secretary Frances Adamson said there had been success working with Indonesia in partnership on health, economics and stability.

"Almost every element of our development assistance program with Indonesia was reoriented to make it COVID relevant," she said.

DFAT's Tom Connor confirmed health aid to Indonesia was cut before the coronavirus pandemic.

But he said Australia implemented a new health partnership coinciding with the disease taking hold.

Australia's total foreign aid budget is $4 billion, slightly down from last year.

The government has separately pledged $305 million to help neighbouring countries respond to coronavirus.

Senator Payne said the government believed the current aid budget was affordable and deliverable.

"We have focused our effort in the areas that we believe we can make the most difference and where we have the largest stakes," she said.

Australian Associated Press