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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10074


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (11:06): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a)according to the United Nations, global extreme poverty has been halved since 1990 but more than 1.2 billion people remain in extreme poverty;

(b)as an economically rich and developed nation, Australia has a responsibility to be a global leader in delivering overseas aid programs and funding;

(c)in 2008, Christian Aid estimated that developing countries lost more than $160 billion (USD) through just two forms of multinational tax evasion—transfer mispricing and false invoicing; and

(d)Micah Challenge:

   (i)is a global movement of aid and development agencies, churches, schools, groups and individuals speaking out against poverty and injustice in support of the Millennium Development Goals;

   (ii)has identified that Australia, as Chair of the G20, has a unique opportunity to bring tax evasion and corruption to the attention of the world in 2014; and

   (iii)urges Australia to take a leading role in tackling tax evasion;

(2) condemns the Government for:

(a)cutting the overseas aid budget; and

(b)its lack of action on multinational tax avoidance; and

(3) urges all Members of Parliament to take an active role in ensuring Australia continues to be a leader in the delivery of overseas aid programs and funding.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Ewen Jones ): Is there a seconder for the motion?

Ms Hall: I second the motion.

Ms CLAYDON: Poverty and extreme poverty in particular continue to be a major issue around the world. According to the United Nations, global extreme poverty—that is, people living on less than $1.25 per day—has halved since 1990, but more than 1.2 billion people remain in extreme poverty today. Ongoing conflict, political unrest, natural disasters and disease outbreaks across multiple continents are putting more and more pressure on already stretched economies, and millions of people have been displaced from their homes.

According to the UNHCR there are more than 52 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide. In Syria alone, more than three million people have been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives due to the ongoing conflict. A further 6.5 million are displaced within the country's borders.

In Africa, the World Health Organization have described the current Ebola epidemic as unparalleled in recent times, with more than 2,400 people already killed. They hope that the outbreak can be limited to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands of people.

And, closer to home, thousands of typhoon survivors in the Philippines are still sheltered in tents and makeshift bunkhouses following the devastation of last November's Typhoon Haiyan.

While adding to global poverty, these singular and often catastrophic events are by no means the root cause of poverty in our world, and there are underlying issues that also need to be addressed. I would like to pay tribute to the progressive social networks like Micah Challenge that work tirelessly to ensure that our focus remains on these deeper underlying causes of global poverty.

Australia needs to strengthen its efforts in tackling poverty and injustice through the Millennium Development Goals, not renege on its once bipartisan commitment. The first action the government could take is to reinstate the $7.6 billion that they cut from the overseas aid budget.

Under Labor, overseas aid helped make a difference to the lives and health outcomes of millions of people in countries like Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and Timor-Leste. Labor doubled Australia's contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And we near doubled Australia's annual aid budget from $2.9 billion to $5.7 billion in six years of government, despite the tough budgetary environment, so as to maintain the commitment of the previous Howard government to continue to raise the aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GNI. This is a commitment the now Prime Minister also made before being elected and promised to keep as late as December last year, I might add—a commitment that has now been abandoned.

I am proud to say that Novocastrians are very generous supporters of international development and make a substantial contribution both financially and with our time to nations not so well off as ours. More than 20,000 individuals, 500 local businesses and 55 community and church groups in Newcastle actively support international development. A number of these contributors joined the shadow minister for foreign affairs and international development and me last week in a public forum and raised concerns about the current state of Australia's overseas aid budget. The message of the day was loud and clear: as an economically rich and developed nation, Australia has the responsibility to be a global leader in developing aid programs and funding.

I draw the House's attention to the ongoing work of Micah Challenge, which this year shines a light on multinational tax dodging and corruption. In their words, the Shine the Light Initiative has been designed:

… to tackle the scourge of tax dodging which robs developing countries on a massive scale of vital revenue for poverty reduction and sustainable human development.

In 2008, it was estimated that more than $120 billion was lost to developing countries through just two forms of multinational tax evasion. That is more than these developing countries receive in aid. As chair of the G20 this year, Australia has a unique opportunity to influence world economic leaders in tackling this problem of multinational tax avoidance.

I welcome news over the weekend that the G20 members have agreed to implement the common reporting standard on financial account information over the next couple of years. The common reporting standard will mean that tax authorities will automatically exchange information about what individuals and companies have in their bank accounts, so that it becomes much harder to hide funds.

As the G20 chair, Australia should be out in front of the pack, ensuring that these measures are implemented in as timely a manner as possible back here in Australia. But I see that the Treasurer has instead pushed our time frame back 12 months. I think dragging our heels in this regard is no good at all; the government needs to get the legislative processes— (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Ewen Jones ): The member's time has expired. Just to formalise it, Jill, can I ask that you second the motion and reserve your right to speak.

Ms Hall: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.