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Shorten’s sop to the Left: a bung for the bureaucrats of the UN

25 January 2019

8:39 AM

25 January 2019

8:39 AM

You may have missed it in the Christmas rush, but opposition leader Bill Shorten proposes to quadruple taxpayer handouts to the United Nations Refugees Agency, in a move that will curry favour with Labor Left.

At the Labor national conference in Adelaide near the end of last year Bill Shorten announced that a Labor government would massively increase funding to the United Nations Refugee Agency to the tune of $500 million. The money will come from a slew of tax hikes set to hurt middle Australians and retirees, including Labor’s retiree tax, negative gearing changes and capital gains tax hike.

According to Bill Shorten, the decision is meant to “rekindle Australia’s reputation as a good international citizen.” In doing so, he remains tone-deaf to public support for the current government’s more discerning stance on the exorbitant public funds we already provide in foreign aid, including a funding cut to the Palestinian Authority last year after revelations that aid was paying for ‘martyrdom payments’ to the families of slain terrorists.

Australia already holds a reputation as a strong international citizen and has one of the highest per-capita refugee intakes in the world. We are a generous country and Australians are also generous donors to charities that do important work in developing nations. We don’t need to hand out half a billion dollars in public funds to prove that generosity – funds which are better invested here to address mental health, build infrastructure, bridge the gap in Indigenous health, employment and education.

Penalising taxpayers to pander to an expensive political agenda is not the answer. If the Labor Party and Bill Shorten were serious about their plan to ‘rekindle’ our international reputation, they should instead consider ways to work with the private generosity and charitability of Australians, rather than mandating public funds.


Canada provides a great example of this with their refugee program’s incorporation of private sponsorship, allowing that country to accept and integrate more refugees into communities that accept them. This program includes sponsorship options for private charities, community associations and groups or other incorporated entities who are interested in supporting refugees. Due to the focus on voluntary community support, these refugees are also likely to face a smoother journey as they integrate into Canadian society in an accepting environment.

This is also clearly a better option in light of what our already generous taxpayer handouts to the UN have delivered. The international organisation has consistently made errors of judgment which beggar belief and lend themselves more to an episode of The Thick of it All or Curb Your Enthusiasm than a reputed global body.

 For example, former Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe who oversaw the economic ruin of his country amidst rampant corruption and human rights abuses, was appointed ‘goodwill ambassador’ for the UN’s World Health Organisation – a decision that was only recanted after an international backlash.

Consider also their human rights council, whose members include a rogue’s gallery of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Pakistan and others. Saudi Arabia is the council’s head, a government which found time to generously allow its women to drive in between executing homosexuals, regime opponents, and journalists.

Unsurprisingly, this ‘human rights council’ has spent its resources and time disproportionately passing resolutions that condemn the state of Israel, a longtime ideological foe of many of its member states. Elsewhere, UN bodies have condemned Australia for our supposedly bad human rights record. Responding to this farce with more handouts certainly sends the wrong message.    

Bill Shorten wants “A Fair Go For Australia.” And claims that he wants to enhance our nation’s ‘global citizenship’. But raising taxes on hardworking Australians to fund handouts to international organisations like the UN to the tune of half a billion is not even remotely fair.

Satya Marar is the director of policy and Joanne Tran a research associate with the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.

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