Former Ministers Smith and Street best foreign aid records over last 40 years

The new report Charity ends at home: The decline of foreign aid in Australia examines the history of Australia’s Official Development Assistance scheme – known as foreign aid. 

The research by The Australia Institute, in collaboration with Jubilee Australia Research Centre, outlines that the former Labor Minister, Stephen Smith, and Liberal Minister from the 70’s, Tony Street, presided over the biggest increases in Australia’s aid budget. Julie Bishop and Bill Hayden presided over the biggest reductions. 

“Australia is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, at the richest point in our history. Despite this, our commitment to foreign aid is declining,” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said. 

“We are the eighth richest country in the OECD, will soon become the nineteenth most generous donor.” 

“Our research shows that Julie Bishop has presided over the greatest decline in foreign aid of any Foreign Minister in Australian history,” Oquist said.

“The last two years has seen the apparent abandonment of the Howard era bipartisan support for the Millennium Development Goals,” Brynnie Goodwill of Jubilee Australia said. 

Since the creation of Australia’s foreign aid program in 1974 there have been ten foreign ministers. Three have overseen an increase in foreign aid in GNI terms while seven have presided over a fall in foreign aid (see figures 1 & 2). 

“While it may seem like easy pickings in the short term, these cuts will likely undermine Australia’s international reputation. At a time when funds are most needed to support critical services, we don’t want to be known as the greedy country,” Goodwill said. 

The report was produced in collaboration with Jubilee Australia Research Centre and the launch coincides with the announcement that The Australia Institute and Jubilee are merging. Jubilee Australia works to raise awareness of human rights, environmental and economic issues in impoverished nations. It is the Australian arm of the world-wide Jubilee movement working for debt cancellation. 

“The Australian public thinks we give a lot more aid than we actually do,” Oquist continued (see figure 3) 

“This is a great development for The Australia Institute. Jubilee Australia’s work on mining issues in our region aligns with the Institute’s work busting the economic myths of the mining industry here in Australia. 

“Both organisations will benefit from sharing skills and resources and further developing our reach and impact,” Oquist said. 

“Jubilee is delighted about the merger with The Australia Institute, whose outstanding research on public policy issues have a profound impact not only domestically, but in our region,’ said Goodwill. ‘The merger will extend the impact of our research.”

“We are connecting the dots between policies domestically and internationally that, simply put, hurt people, whether they are in Australia or overseas,” Goodwill added.

Figure 1 – Changes in Foreign Aid by Foreign Minister


Foreign Minister

Change in ODA/GNI

Stephen Smith (Labor)


Tony Street (Liberal)


Kevin Rudd (Labor)


Don Willesee and Gough Whitlam (Labor)


Bob Carr (Labor)


Gareth Evans (Labor)


Alexander Downer (Liberal)


Andrew Peacock (Liberal)


Bill Hayden (Labor)


Julie Bishop (Liberal)


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