Corbett, J 2017, Australia’s Foreign Aid Dilemma: Humanitarian aspirations confront democratic legitimacy, Routledge, New York.

As someone who is still in the early stages of self-education about Australian politics and political history, this book has helped fill in some very significant gaps in my knowledge. It has answered some key questions and raised others.

Corbett’s central thesis is that the varied trajectory of Australian aid policy and practice is explained by politics and very little else. Building on that he presents the concept of ‘court politics’ as the paradigm in which the history of aid in Australia must be based if we are to understand its past and present. Whether it helps us predict or even influence its future remains open to question.

One of the most useful things this book does is provide a very clear and thought provoking history of the aid program in Australia over an extended period of time. The author identifies key events and influencers from the post-war period up until the current day. Although the book was published after the merger of AusAID and DFAT during the period of the Abbott government, this does not receive a great deal of attention, given that it was too soon to assess the impact of this development at the time of publication. In addition, Corbett’s chronology is helpful in putting this development into context alongside other (equally or possibly more) significant occurrences such as the establishment of the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) by the Whitlam government in 1974 or the abolition of the Development Import Finance Facility (DIFF) during the Howard government era.

Please click here to read the full “Book review: Australia’s Foreign Aid Dilemma” article published at Dev Policy, written by Griffith Asia Institute adjunct researcher, Dr Tess Newton Cain.