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Monday, 12 September 2005
Page: 59

Ms PLIBERSEK (3:55 PM) —I want to congratulate the member for McPherson for putting this motion on the Notice Paper. It really is a very important issue, and it is very timely. At the moment, world leaders from a variety of countries are heading to New York, including our own Prime Minister, to debate the Millennium Development Goals. In a world where cows receive more aid than many of the world’s children, I think there could not be a better time to put on the public record that the interests of the poorest children in the world should be a priority for each and every one of us. So I thank the member for McPherson for raising this issue today.

Every single day 30,000 children around the world die from poverty related causes. Any one of us who thinks about the tragedy of the death of a single child, or anyone who has had that happen in their family or to a friend, would know how devastating it is for the family and for the community involved. The fact that the deaths of these children are, for the most part, entirely preventable makes them so much more tragic. Two million people die from tuberculosis every year, and 11 million children under the age of five die each year from preventable diseases. Many of these diseases we no longer recognise in the Australian community, and they would be very easily treated if they were treated quickly enough. Children still die of dehydration because they cannot get rehydration salts quickly enough. The cost of providing treatment for these children is so very low that I cannot help but consider it immoral that we do not make a greater effort to do this. A billion people lack access to potable water. Four million people each year are newly infected with HIV-AIDS, and many of them will leave behind very young children. They will leave behind children of seven, eight or nine years of age who suddenly become the head of the family, with younger brothers and sisters to care for because they have been orphaned.

The Millennium Development Goals that we wish to achieve by 2050 aim to halve extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, reduce child mortality, promote gender equality, combat AIDS, improve maternal health and ensure a sustainable environment. These Millennium Development Goals provide an international framework through which we can make a real dent in extreme child poverty.

This is an unprecedented chance, a once-in-a-lifetime chance, for Australia to make a true and honest commitment, and for the rest of the world to make a true and honest commitment, to changing the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet. What we are being asked to do is just doing our fair share. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister did make the decision to travel to New York. It is a very important gesture, and I hope that he will be able to convince his friends in the United States that their 700 objections to the draft document really are of enormous concern to the world community. The watering down of the Millennium Development Goals would be an incredible waste of an opportunity to end extreme poverty.

This year is also the International Year of Microcredit. Microcredit gives a wonderful opportunity to end poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. Women in particular have been terrific recipients of microcredit and have made family businesses that lift themselves and their children out of poverty.

I want to conclude by saying that UNICEF is a wonderful organisation. I have been a long-term member. With the permission of the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Mr Brough, who is at the table, I would like to table this message that was written by people urging the Prime Minister to visit New York this week and to continue to commit Australia to achieving our share of the Millennium Development Goals. This is a policy that has enormous public support. I believe that the Prime Minister’s gesture this week is a good one. I hope that he will be able to recommit Australia and to convince his friends in the United States that these Millennium Development Goals will play an important role in ending extreme poverty as we know it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! Is there any objection to leave being granted to table the document? There being no objection, leave is granted.