PB16 Measuring Australia’s foreign aid generosity, from Menzies to Turnbull

By Robin Davies

February 2017

Australia’s foreign aid budget fell to 0.22% of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2016-17, an historic low. Some commentators, invoking OECD statistics, have claimed that in the 1960s under Prime Minister Robert Menzies, and into the 1970s, aid spending was regularly above 0.5% of GNI. A review of Australian government statistics, including some from lesser-known sources, indicates that the OECD inflates Australia’s aid/GNI ratios from the early 1960s up to about 1995. The highest ratio achieved at any time was actually 0.48% in 1967-68. However, governments in the 1960s and 1970s did believe they were doing better than this, at a time when per capita incomes were less than half their present level in real terms

Davies, R. 2017, ‘Measuring Australia’s foreign aid generosity, from Menzies to Turnbull’, Policy Brief No. 16, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.