'We are a compassionate nation': Treasurer defends foreign aid freeze

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers his post-budget National Press Club address at Parliament House Great Hall in Canberra on May 10 Source: AAP

Treasurer Scott Morrison says he looks forward to the day when the budget can afford to be more generous with foreign aid.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has talked up the nation's compassion a day after he made another raid on the foreign aid budget.

More than $300 million will be siphoned from the aid program when it reaches $4.01 billion in mid-2018 and remains static until indexation resumes in 2021/22.

After $11.3 billion in cuts since the coalition government came to power in 2013, the latest move has not pleased aid organisations.

Mr Morrison said Australians expected the government to deliver services at home and that was a top priority.

"But we are a compassionate nation. I look forward to the day we can be more generous," he said during his post-budget speech at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.

Morrison talks to SBS World News

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The treasurer talked up his own personal interest in the issue and spoke of his visits to aid projects in countries such as Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.

"Our people do great jobs," Mr Morrison said.

The aid budget increases slightly in 2017/18 to $3.9 billion from $3.8 billion this financial year.

Aid spending now equates to about 22 cents in every $100 of gross national income, a historic low.

Plan International Australia chief executive Ian Wishart says the cuts to aid are short-sighted and disappointing.

Under the coalition government, his organisation has been forced to discontinue or outright cancel nine projects operating in Bangladesh, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Source AAP

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