“[The policy] is in lock step across both sides of government at the moment.”
“The sector hears themselves in [the policy] and they haven’t been used to that.”
This question focused attention on three positive developments. First up, experts interpreted the policy as repositioning international development as core business in Australian international affairs. They welcomed Government’s signature approach to foreign policy (characterised by increased engagement, listening and partnership) appearing in concrete terms in the document.
Second, experts pointed to the early but positive signs of bipartisanship on display at Tuesday’s launch. They hoped the smooth public reception the policy has received across party lines and stakeholders would mean a reduction in the politicisation of development assistance spending in coming years.
Third, the headline commitments that struck the biggest chord in the room were the transparency portal and perceptions survey, the civil society partnership fund and targets on gender and climate change.
Where experts diverged, however, was over how to interpret this positive reception. On the one hand, some congratulated Government for a consultation process well done and for the obvious inclusion of regional voices and domestic stakeholder perspectives in the final policy. On the other hand, some asked whether the Australian development community’s public approval of the policy was an indicator that Government had pleased many with its statement, rather than making some tough but overdue decisions to focus on what matters most. (Read the Lab’s analysis on this persistent challenge to Australian development here.)