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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Page: 144

Mr ANDERSON (7:35 PM) —This is Anti-Poverty Week and I have been privileged to have the opportunity to speak with a range of people this week—from World Vision, from Micah, from Make Poverty History and from elsewhere—about the very important objectives that I think we now share collectively and that I know many Australian individuals hold very dear. These are to take forward the Millennium Development Goals, of which there are eight, agreed to by this country, along with many other member states of the United Nations, in 2000. The objectives of the MDGs are essentially to halve global poverty and its effects by 2015. This, I think we would agree, is a very desirable objective and I would like to highlight the seriousness of some of the challenges before us and to look at a couple of the MDGs in the brief time available to me tonight.

The first MDG that I would like to comment on relates to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Indeed, the first MDG has two aims: to reduce by half the number of people living on less than a dollar a day—a mind-boggling concept to us that people should live on such a small amount—and to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. I think it is almost certainly the case that at no time in recent history has global production of carbohydrate and protein needs slipped below the absolute minimum needed to ensure that all of humanity enjoys an adequate diet; yet one-third of global deaths—some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day—are due to poverty related causes. The majority are women and children. It is estimated that 852 million people go to bed hungry every day, up from 842 million a year ago, and 300 million of them are children. Amazingly and distressingly, every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation and the large majority are children under the age of five.

The second MDG that I would like to refer to relates to education. I think all of us in this place—we talk about it often enough—would recognise the value of education. It is particularly important that it be carefully designed and that it be designed in ways that seek to raise not just numeracy and literacy but also skills and wisdom. I would make that point at the outset. There is no doubt that there are urgent needs right around the globe, in Third World countries in particular, to raise the educational opportunities that are made available to children if those children are to achieve better outcomes and, indeed, if the nations that they live in are to develop economically and socially. It is predicted that only 72 per cent of countries in our region will achieve the objectives of the second MGG on universal primary education by 2015. Countries lagging behind include Papua New Guinea, Laos, Nauru and Vanuatu. In fact, one in four adults in developing countries are illiterate. That is 872 million people and 75 per cent of them are women.

The seventh MDG goes to the heart of environmental sustainability. We have been talking a lot about water. The reality is that water is becoming a huge issue for humanity and one that is particularly pertinent in the Third World. Our problems pale into insignificance when we realise that 2.5 billion people across the globe do not have access to improved sanitation and 1.2 billion people do not have access to an improved source of water. 2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with a lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

Let me come very briefly to the final, or eighth, MDG that I want to touch on tonight—a global partnership for development. Australia has committed to this. It is about open and fair trade. It is about helping countries develop decent governance models that will deliver fairness, justice, equity, education and economic outcomes for their people. It is about addressing the special needs of landlocked and small island states. It is about doing something serious where it is appropriate and wise to do so on debt reduction. We as a nation, I think, have individually shown great compassion for those who are less fortunate. We as a nation now collectively need to do more and I urge that we do so. (Time expired)