Australia as an International Citizen Essay

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One of Kilby's contentions, however, was that Australia's hypothesis that increased economic growth would result to poverty reduction is a framework that is not responsive to the realities of poor, developing countries, which are almost always the recipients of AusAID's aid program.

The author's claim is that AusAID's thrust -- that economic growth will result to reduced poverty -- is developed from a neoliberalist framework, which is not as responsive to the "contemporary" framework in which the present state of poor, developing nations that are the recipient of these aid programs are situated in. Kilby contested that contemporary movements in the socio-economic states of poor nations do not actually adhere to the neoliberalist belief that the economy will run by itself, that is, that people's interest would influence economic behavior and the economy will work independently from other mechanisms present in the society, particularly political ones (115).

Instead of economic growth, said Kilby, aid programs such as the AusAID must focus on determinants that historical data have actually pointed out as more causal or influential to reduced poverty than economic growth. The author identified vulnerability as an important determinant of poverty reduction, as historical data on developing and poor nations have reflected. Kilby identified "vulnerability" as the "number of people exiting poverty and going into poverty," and this definition is what the author proposes as a more appropriate measure to determine poverty reduction (117). In addition to vulnerability, rural and urban divide, inequality and increasing social exclusion are other determinants influencing poverty reduction in AusAID's recipient nations. The author's research showed that historical data from these poor countries highlighted that an increase in urbanization actually resulted to slow economic growth. The author analyzed that lack of economic growth despite the rise in urbanization resulted from the fact that "agriculture and other industries in the rural areas" have slowed down, in effect influencing the rate of economic growth of the rapidly urbanizing country (118).

In addition to subsisting to economic growth as a determinant of poverty reduction, the AusAID program was also said to suffer from utilizing the neoliberalist approach through its "PRSP" approach by using Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. While Kilby determined this as AusAID's response to modifying the measures and methods by which the program identifies a country's growth and sustainability, the PRSP approach is actually a "continuation" of the neoliberalism that has prevailed in Australia's aid programs for a significant period of time (123).

Ultimately, Kilby suggested a more "nuanced" approach to aid assistance to poor countries (126). This means that instead of looking simply at economic frameworks and models, aid assistance programs should also address the needs of the recipient country, hence, the nuanced approach to providing aid to eliminate poverty. Take as an example Kilby's discussion of how urbanization led to slow growth in agriculture, therefore slowing also the economic growth of the country. A nuanced approach to rapid urbanization to generate economic growth is for the government and society to come up with "compensatory measures" that will act as buffers to the effect of urbanization. Livelihood strategies, for example, are effective solutions to countries that rely on agricultural industries and are also experiencing rapid urbanization (118). By providing livelihood to farmers and groups that benefit from agricultural industries, the country continues to develop by still promoting urbanization and maintaining support for agricultural industries.

In terms of its aid program, Australia is not necessarily a 'bad' international citizen. While Kilby identified AusAID's strategy as not responsive to the needs of its recipient countries, it does not criticize the aid program's thrust as 'wrong' nor 'bad.' Instead, Kilby's analysis addresses the reality that AusAID must cope with the rapid changes occurring within recipient nations, and as a provider of assistance of these countries, it is important for AusAID that the funds they provide these countries will result to poverty alleviation/reduction. And this will only be accomplished if AusAID would be open to contemporary frameworks and models that are more appropriate for a recipient country to achieve poverty reduction.

McDonald on Australia's concept of retributive and distributive justice in the context of global climate change

According to Matt McDonald (2005), Australia was once a strong advocate for implementing legislative measures to ensure that nations are addressing the problem of global climate change. But this has changed in the past decade, as different leaders assumed different positions on this global environmental issue. In his article, Fair Weather Friend? Ethics and Australia's approach to global climate change, McDonald discussed Australia's ever-changing position on global climate change, and how these changes in stance actually reflected the Australian government's 'sense of justice' -- not only in addressing an environmental issue such as climate change, but also in sharing its worldview of their role as a developed nation in the internal affairs arena. This section echoes the same conclusion arrived at in the first section on Australia's position on asylum seekers: similar to Singer's argument, McDonald also argued that in the issue of global climate change, it seemed that Australia is not willing to give its 'fair share' of taking responsibility of the burden.

This statement was supported by McDonald's historical analysis of Australia's legislative actions in addressing climate change in the last twenty (20) years, from Hawke's active involvement in this environmental issue (1980s), to Keating's lukewarm, yet steady support of legislation relevant to climate change, up until Howard's 'about face' approach to the issue. Under Howard's leadership, Australia has become a "climate change laggard," owing primarily to Howard's contention to the proposed international policies that address and provide a solution to global climate change (225). McDonald described Australia's position on global climate change as "immoral" based on two arguments. First, that Australia sought to adhere to policies proposed by the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) if only these will not have a huge impact on the country's economic cost for implementation. Moreover, the country held its ground in holding back its full cooperation, arguing that each nation's contribution to providing solutions to global climate change must be commensurate to its past (retributive justice) and present (distributive justice) 'contributions' (i.e., each nation's 'contributed damage' to the environment, causing climate change) (228). McDonald further argued that with Australia looking only at the economic cost of the issue in the short-term and not thinking about climate change's effects on the country in the long run, the country has just shown how "one-sided" its view of the global climate change is.


Analyses of Australia's actions and positions on specific humanitarian and environmental issues demonstrated that it is far from being a good international citizen. Being one of the developed nations enjoying a more developed mature socio-political and economic system, Australia is expected to perform not only for itself as a nation, but to achieve further by sharing its success in development and extending its help to poor, developing countries. Unfortunately, based on Mares, Singer, and McDonald's analyses, Australia was a 'bad' international citizen because it chose to pursue its self-interest over the opportunity to contribute significantly for the common good. While its aid assistance program was not highly criticized by Kilby, AusAID's poor response to recipient countries' needs in achieving poverty reduction shows that it has also failed to act for the common good, contributing, ultimately, to the conclusion that Australia has not been a good international citizen.


Kilby, P. (2007). "The Australian aid program: dealing with poverty?" Australian Journal of International Affairs, 114-129.

Mares, P. (2002). Borderline: Australia's response to refugees and asylum seekers in the wake of the Tampa. Sydney: UNSW Press.

McDonald, M. (2005). "Fair weather friend? Ethics…[continue]

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