Gen Y throwing global poverty under the bus

Gen Y is often criticised for being apolitical, apathetic and self-involved. But at least a thousand young Australians, embarking on a road trip to draw attention to global poverty, would have those critics eat their words and their dust.

The participants, aged 16 to 26, are to set out on Saturday to campaign across the country before converging on Canberra.

Their aim is to keep foreign aid on the agenda and in the budget.

The Oaktree Foundation, which runs the campaign, has organised youth road trips in the past two election years, and said participants would specifically visit marginal electorates.

Nina O'Connor, 24, general manager of the campaign, hopes the road trip will give the movement to end extreme poverty ''a voice in this election''.

''We need to be at the forefront of politicians' minds and voters' minds as we progress toward the budget and then again toward September,'' she said.

The participants will leave in busloads of 40 to 80 people from 16 places around the country on Saturday. They will spend five days campaigning around their states, before arriving in Canberra where each will meet their local MP or a senator. The next day they will head together to Sydney for a day of campaigning in the central business district.

''Even though it's just one week, it has the potential to be very significant and to really bring the issue of ending poverty back on the agenda,'' Philip Chan, 23, from Sydney, said.

''[Foreign aid] is part of the Australian ethos of giving people a fair go. Australians individually are historically very generous with their aid and donating to charity, and we really want to see the Australian government reflect this in their aid budgets.''

The campaigners are specifically asking both parties to keep their 2007 commitment to increase foreign aid contribution to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2016-17.

They also want a bipartisan pledge to increase the aid contribution to 0.7 per cent of GNI by 2020, in line with United Nations millennium development goals, which aim to halve the number of people living on less than $1 a day by 2015.

Australia at present contributes 0.35 per cent of GNI (35¢ of every $100) to international aid.

Labor caused consternation among aid groups last May when it announced the increase to 0.5 per cent would be delayed by 12 months.

World Vision chief executive Tim Costello estimated that delaying increasing aid contributions for even a year would cost 200,000 lives in the developing world.

The road-trippers are also hoping to increase the ''quality'' of Australia's aid budget, after the government's announcement before Christmas that $375 million from the foreign aid budget would be diverted to pay for asylum seekers who were being processed in Australia.

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