Syrian aid not enough, says Labor's Tanya Plibersek

    Labor has joined aid groups in attacking as inadequate Australia's $12 million pledge towards the humanitarian crisis gripping civil war-torn Syria.

    Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek has branded the Abbott government's contribution to a United Nations fund to help refugees and other victims of the bloody civil war ''woefully inadequate''.

    ''Today I have written to the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, urging her to provide more assistance from Australia as a matter of priority,'' she said.

    Aid groups have previously blasted the size of Australia's contribution. The Abbott government pledged $10 million at a UN-backed conference held in Kuwait last month where the international community raised $2.4 billion.

    Australia's contribution – converted to US$8.9 million – compared with US$380 million by the United States, US$164 million by Britain and US$110 million by Germany.

    Even countries with considerably smaller economies than Australia – such as Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands – have pledged substantially more money to Syria.

    Australia has committed a further $2 million towards dismantling the Assad regime's chemical weapons.

    Oxfam chief executive Helen Szoke recently branded Australia's pledge deeply disappointing.

    ''Australia's commitment to the appeal is not commensurate with the need, the size of the appeal or Australia's capacity to contribute,'' Dr Szoke said.

    ''This is the largest humanitarian appeal in history for a reason. The needs are staggering. This is the worst crisis of the 21st Century.''

    She said the Abbott government's contribution compared poorly with the $100 million that Australia had pledged to help Syrians under the previous Labor government.

    According to UN figures, about 2.3 million Syrians have been forced to flee the country, many of them now living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, which are struggling to cope.

    A further 6.5 million people are internally displaced and 9.3 million in total – about half of Syria's population – are in urgent need of assistance.

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