‘Spread very thin’: Former intelligence chiefs raise alarm about foreign aid

‘Spread very thin’: Former intelligence chiefs raise alarm about foreign aid

Two former heads of Australia’s top intelligence agency say the country’s aid budget is spread too thin, calling for a major update of the nation’s foreign policy.

Richard Maude, the Office of National Assessments’ director-general between 2013 and 2016, said Australia needed to refresh its foreign policy strategy to take account of coronavirus, the US election and the growing influence of China.

Mr Maude, who headed the development of the 2017 foreign policy white paper as a senior official in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), said the roughly $4 billion Australia spent on foreign aid annually was not enough to achieve the nation’s goals in the region, including in south-east Asia.

Speaking to a podcast series to be launched on Monday by the Australian Council for International Development, he said the Abbott government’s merging of AusAID and DFAT raised a number of issues, including a lack of understanding about aid from senior DFAT officials, that had yet to be fully addressed.

Mr Maude, now the executive director of Asia Society Australia, said the government’s cuts to foreign aid in 2013 had also put the program “under an enormous amount of pressure” and it was “spread very thin these days”.