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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 8903

Ms OWENS (6:54 PM) —This week is Anti-Poverty Week and the United Nations has declared this Friday, 17 October, International Anti-Poverty Day, so it is appropriate this week that so many of us rise to draw attention to the plight of nearly one billion people around the world. It is appropriate, of course, that we keep global poverty in mind every day, as nearly 10,000 children die each day from hunger and malnutrition.

This morning on the lawns of Parliament House hundreds of people from Micah Challenge, Make Poverty History and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation gathered to welcome a group of cyclists who had ridden from Brisbane to Canberra to draw attention to the plight of those living in poverty around the world. On arriving, they cycled once around Parliament House for each of the eight Millennium Development Goals—once to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; once to achieve universal primary education; once to promote gender equality and empower women; once to reduce child mortality; once to improve maternal health; once to combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases; once to ensure environmental sustainability; and finally, on the eighth time, to develop a global partnership for development.

In the words of the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance:

The Millennium Development Goals are tangible, real indicators of success in the struggle against global poverty and inequality. It is impossible to be committed to a world where children grow up free from the scourge of poverty, illiteracy and disease without accepting that the Millennium Development Goals are the medium-term goals for which we should aim.

We are at the halfway point and there have been some key successes. For example, in all but two regions primary school enrolment is at least 90 per cent. The gender parity index in primary education is 95 per cent or higher in six of the 10 regions, including the most populous ones. Deaths from measles fell from over 750,000 in 2000 to 250,000 in 2006, and about 80 per cent of children in developing countries now receive a measles vaccine. Some 1.6 billion people have gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, and the share of developing countries’ export earnings devoted to servicing debt fell from 12.5 per cent in 2000 to 6.6 per cent in 2006, allowing those countries to allocate more resources to reducing poverty.

But in other areas much greater effort is required. About one-quarter of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight and are at risk of having a future blighted by the long-term effects of undernourishment. Of the 113 countries that failed to achieve gender parity in both primary and secondary school enrolment by the target date of 2005, only 18 likely to achieve that goal by 2015. More than 500,000 prospective mothers in developing countries die in childbirth or as a result of complications in pregnancy. Some 2.5 billion people, almost half the developing world’s population, live without improved sanitation. Developed countries’ foreign aid expenditures declined for the second consecutive year in 2007 and risk falling short of the commitment made in 2005.

The last time Australia achieved the interim target levels of 0.5 per cent of GNI was way back under the Whitlam government in 1974-75. The figure has steadily declined since, reaching an all-time low under the previous government of 0.25 per cent of GNI between 1999 and 2004. In 2007, the Australian government ranked 13th out of 21 developed OECD donor countries in per capita aid. In contrast, as private individuals we ranked second in private donations to non-government organisations, demonstrating what a generous community we are.

The Rudd government made an election commitment to meet the 0.5 per cent of GNI target by 2015. The 2008-09 budget contained a projected nine per cent real increase over the 2007-08 budget figure, bringing the total in the 2008-09 year to $3.7 billion, or 0.32 per cent of GNI, and that lays the foundation for filling our election commitment. There was also a post-budget announcement by the Prime Minister on 13 June for a four-year $49 million maternal and neonatal health program for eastern Indonesia to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women in Indonesia’s poorest area. These are small, positive steps to re-establish Australia as part of the global community working to halve poverty by 2015. In the words of Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General:

We must act now and together, responsibly, as one world community, for one shared humanity.

(Time expired)