Tanya Plibersek has accused the Coalition of gutting Australia’s aid program. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFederal election: Full coverage

Labor has pledged to reverse the Coalition’s latest $224 million cut to the foreign aid program but is making no promises about the many billions slashed under Tony Abbott’s government.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says a Labor government would immediately restore the money cut under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first budget earlier this month.

The move would help keep vital projects delivering maternal and child health, schooling, clean water and sanitation up and running into the next financial year, Ms Plibersek said.

The funding promise means Labor would deliver a total of $800 million a year more in aid than the Coalition. Ms Plibersek says that would “start rebuilding” the program that has been cut by $11 billion under the Coalition.

“Since coming to government in 2013, the Liberals have gutted Australia’s aid program. It is now the weakest in history,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Sadly, the Liberals’ cuts have been so deep that it is impossible to fix the aid program quickly.”Labor has also promised an additional $450 million over three years to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and an extra $40 million a year to help Australian NGOs deliver frontline services.

The major parties once had a bipartisan commitment to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of gross national income, or more than $8 billion, by this financial year.

However, Labor slowed the increases when it was in government and Mr Abbott later made swingeing cuts. He also scrapped the dedicated aid agency AusAID.

The program is currently worth about $4 billion, or 0.25 per cent of GNI.

Labor’s latest announcement was welcomed by the charity sector, with Care Australia calling it a “great first step”.

World Vision’s Tim Costello called on the Coalition’s to match Labor’s pledge.

“I invite Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison to use this election campaign to recommit to a bipartisan aid policy that will restore a fair and effective budget for Australian aid,” Mr Costello said.

“The continuous aid cuts of the past three years have put real lives and children’s futures at risk, as well as undermining Australia’s role in the world, our regional and global security and prosperity.”

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