Listen: Jonathon Pryke in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
There is a statistic about attitudes to Australia’s Foreign Aid program that is often quoted by Senator Concetta Fierrevante Wells, she is the Minister for International Development and the Pacific. When questioned about Australia’s Foreign Aid program she often cites that “80% of Australians don’t support any increase in foreign aid.”
The Senator was basing her comments on regular surveys into just that question – how generous should Australia be – especially to our often very poor near neighbours in Asia and the Pacific. The question is part of an annual questionnaire conducted by the Lowy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan international policy think tank.
The question matters a lot
For a number of years the Lowy Institute has asked ordinary Australian’s that question in their annual poll. Until now the poll has found that the average Australian responded that we were very generous and maybe should give a bit less and certainly not more.
It turns out that there is more than one way to ask the question and that the framing of the question is critically important. For the most recent poll the Lowy Institute swapped things up a bit. Instead of giving participants actual dollar amounts or percentage of the total Federal budget that went to Foreign Aid, the question was:-
“What percentage of the Budget do you think Australia currently gives to Foreign Aid?” And the follow up question was “What percentage do you think Australia should give?”
Australians think we give a lot
Jonathon Pryke the Director, Pacific Islands Program at the Lowy Institute told Stephen O’Doherty on ‘Open House’ that the average Australian thought that Australian Aid was seventeen times more than it actually is and that they thought we should be giving twelve times more than we currently do.
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