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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 6682

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (13:54): Mr Acting Deputy President, in the short time available I wanted to make some com­ments about the recent visit to this place by the Micah team. Micah, as you know, come here regularly to remind parliamentar­ians about the importance of poverty in our world and to keep us on track in looking at the issues of the Millennium Development Goals. The theme of this particular visit—they come with a theme each time—is 'WASHing Away Poverty'. Micah have prod­uced another marvellous document, which I really hope people will take and read, which looks at the important issues of water, sanitation and hygiene and how they affect communities. This is focused on millennium development goal No. 7. I know everyone in this place knows all of the Millennium Development Goals and to what they refer.

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program, referred to as the WASH program, looks at how water and sanitation operate and how we need to fund these areas in developing countries. The scary statistics show that globally there are about 2.6 billion people living without access to basic sanitation and 884 million people living without access to safe drinking water. The consequences are extremely serious. The World Health Organisation estimates that providing access to WASH could prevent 28 per cent of child deaths or, in other words, save the lives of more than two million children every year. While children may be the most affected by inadequate WASH, the diagrams provided in this document show how the issues of water—something we take for granted in this country—can impact on all the other elements which are counted towards poverty in this world.

We have a clear commitment to this process. One of the things that the United Nations General Assembly said when they were looking at the Millennium Develop­ment Goals was:

Safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights.

Strong words. I think in our country we have become almost inured to the idea that water and sanitation are available. But that is not the case overseas. That is one of the things that, through the Millennium Development Goals, we are examining and looking at progress—and there have been good news stories. Certainly we should celebrate those as well as looking at where we can do better.

I was really fortunate earlier this year to go to several countries in Africa through the Joint Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade delegation. Senator Mark Bishop and Senator Russell Trood, who was with us in the last term, were on that trip as well. We were amazed at the amount of work that AusAID was doing on the issues of water and sanitation in a number of countries. We went to visit areas in Zimbabwe, in Harare, in areas that were looking at developing good plumbing and basic amenities in the region. Not only was AusAID working with local people in putting the plumbing together—and perhaps I have too close a view of being in that place—they were involved with local theatre groups, so there were education programs funded by AusAID which gave, in theatre, information to the community about how sanitation operates. I truly believe that theatre and engagement in that way is better than every speech that has ever been made. We could see how the kids in the area were learning about good sanitation and cleanliness programs by being engaged with people who were entertaining. That is part of the AusAID program. That is where the people who came to see us through Micah were saying, 'Yes, we have been doing well, but we need to do more,' and there is a claim that we should look at greater expenditure through AusAID, and that needs to be considered.

I know that Micah met with AusAID and also the minister's office to talk about a number of things, including how money can best be spent. One issue is the need to separate the issues of clean water and the issues of sanitation. Everybody knows about the need for clean water and there have been great successes. But as Bob McMullan put it—I remember Bob making this comment—while people are really keen to be around good news stories about clean water, perhaps they are not as keen to be photographed beside toilets.

That was proven wrong yesterday when a whole range of parliamentarians from both houses were very keen to be photographed in various positions around a very large toilet. I have to admit I was not brave enough to climb up on top, as we saw Mr Oakeshott and others do. But by putting the focus there, the issue of having effective sanitation is an important aspect for all of us, and through our aid program we can move to do better.

The message from Micah is that we cannot forget our responsibilities. When you see the joy that effective clean water services and sanitation can bring to kids at school and to communities, that is a message for all of us. I say to the Micah team: keep coming and putting us on track and showing us where we have done well; but, more importantly, keep showing us what we can do better.