UPDATED 6th September, 2013

The Coalition's announcement that if would cut $4.5 billion from Australia's foreign aid budget represents "a broken promise to the global poor", according to Micah Challenge.

The organisation says initial estimates suggest foreign aid under a Coalition Government would move backwards from a projected 0.37 per cent of gross national income this year to 0.32 per cent over the next four years.

John Beckett, national coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia, says the group was "extremely disappointed" both parties seemed to have ignored the voices of Australians and disregarded the cost such a move would have in terms of human lives. "We estimate this $4.5 billion could save 450,000 lives," he says.

In answer to Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey's announcement that the money would be used to pay for domestic infrastruction projects such as road building under a Coalition Government, Mr Beckett said: "We strongly reject the notion that a wealthy nation like Australia cannot afford to meet its international commitments to the poorest people in the world, who are dying daily from preventable causes, while also investing in growth for Australia."

He said Mr Hockey had refused to provide a timeline or a commitment that foreign aid would be ramped back up if the federal budget returned to surplus.

Meanwhile, other Christian groups have also criticised the policy. The Australian Christian Lobby has described the decision as "deeply disappointing" with managing director Lyle Shelton saying that under the plan "we"ll now build better roads for ourselves with money that could have helped keep kids alive in countries where sealed roads are a luxury".

"We all want to see Australia prosper but compared to many countries in our region we are rich and our aid budget is very modest compared to what we spend on ourselves," he said.

Humanitarian organisation World Vision Australia's chief executive, Tim Costello, has described the move as "truly devastating".

'For five years the Coalition has been promising to increase our aid budget to 0.5 per cent of national income and now we discover they actually plan to reduce that percentage," he said. "This decision has wiped out a generation of youth idealism, and broken the hearts of Australians who dare to care about people beyond our borders."

The move follows the Labor Government's announcement earlier this year that it was delaying lifting foreign aid as it redirected funds to Australia's controverial refugee program. Under that announcement, the Federal Government said it would be delaying the lifting of foreign aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI until 2017-18. The date had already been pushed out to 2016 in 2012.

~ www.micahchallenge.org.au

~ www.acl.org.au

~ www.worldvision.com.au

- DAVID ADAMS

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OVERSEAS AID CAMPAIGNERS REACT WITH DISMAY TO GOVERNMENT'S DECISION TO DELAY LIFTING FOREIGN AID

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