Senate debates

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Sustainable Development Goals

7:39 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Earlier this week I was very pleased to receive a delegation of people—mostly very young people—associated with the Micah Challenge. The Micah Challenge is an organisation dedicated to promoting the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals, which have recently been adopted to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

It is an important time for us to reflect on the significance of coordinated global action to combat poverty, to promote sustainability and to pursue justice and equality across both the developed and developing worlds.

We have made much progress in the years since the millennium—not on all goals, but on many goals. The great genius of the Millennium Development Goals was that they provided a framework in which public organisations, private organisations and NGOs could all work collaboratively for a clear purpose. Some of the most impressive results have been around health. The goals acted to galvanise support around the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of communicable diseases like HIV malaria and tuberculosis. In just one example, malaria-related mortality has dropped by 25 per cent since 2000. I had the very good fortune to visit Vietnam earlier this year and see the remarkable success that the global fund has had in combatting malaria in rural provinces there, and to see the power that comes from bringing public and private sector funding and leadership and expertise together in pursuit of a common goal.

The Sustainable Development Goals have now been developed in a 15-year plan to coordinate international activity. They focus on the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. They are spread across 17 different goals and they relate to issues as varied as gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, education, reducing inequality, affordable and clean energy and climate change. They are not vague aspirations. Every one of the goals has clear targets that the global community will try and reach 15 years from now.

This is a very important policy document. It is a clear statement of vision and intent by the global community, and the goals represent a very big agenda. They are the culmination of extensive input from countries, non-government organisations, businesses and millions of ordinary citizens from around the world. All countries include Australia are expected to use the goals in framing their agendas and their policies. There are steps that we can take domestically. As one example, there is much that we can do to remedy the inequality and poverty that is faced by Indigenous Australians.

However, if as a global community we are to have any hope of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, more well-off countries such as ours will have to contribute more to development aid. As one of the most well-off countries in the Asia-Pacific region, we have a particular obligation to help out. Chinese president Xi Jinping has unveiled and initial pledge of $2 billion, with the aim of increasing that to $12 billion by 2030.

Unfortunately, here in Australia the cuts to our aid budget make it very difficult for Australia to be the good global citizen that we believe we can be. The Liberal government has ripped $11.3 billion in aid out of the last federal budget. This included a $2 million cut from some of the poorest countries in Africa. It is a 70 per cent drop in the last budget alone. Our budget is now the weakest aid budget in our country's history.

Turning our back on the global community does not mean that they will go away. The Liberal government's decision to slash Australia's aid budget was short-sighted. Hopefully it will also be short-lived. The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious piece of global development policy, and Australia should give what it can afford, because we really cannot afford not to.