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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12135

Mr LYONS (Bass) (21:44): I rise today in the chamber to talk about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Poverty in the developing world goes far beyond income. It means having to walk more than a mile every day simply to collect water and firewood; it means suffering diseases that were eradicated from rich countries decades ago. Every year 11 million children die, most of whom are under five years of age. More than six million people die from completely preventable causes like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. The Millennium Development Goals provide concrete numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty. The MDGs also provide a framework for the entire international community to work together towards a common end—making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere. If these goals are achieved, world poverty will be cut in half, tens of millions of lives will be saved and billions more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the global economy.

According to Food4Africa, more than 1.2 billion people, one in every five on earth, survive on less than $1 a day; the top one per cent of the world's richest people earn as much as the poorest 57 per cent; of the approximately six billion people in the world, at least 1.2 billion do not have access to safe drinking water; more than 2.4 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities; more than 2.2 million people die each year from diseases caused by polluted water and filthy sanitation conditions; and two-thirds of the world's 876 million illiterates are women. For women, poverty has a devastating effect. The United Nations Development Group reports that more than 40 per cent of women in Africa do not have access to basic education. If a girl is educated for six years or more, as an adult her prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates will dramatically and consistently improve. Educated mothers immunise their children 50 per cent more often than mothers who are not educated.

Recently, a contingent of constituents in my great electorate of Bass travelled to Canberra to speak to elected representatives about the importance of the Millennium Development Goals and overseas aid. Water and sanitation were the main concerns highlighted in these discussions. I am proud that there are young people in my electorate who are so passionate about the welfare of others. There is also a keen branch in my electorate from RESULTS International who often write and talk to me about the Millennium Development Goals, microfinance and poverty. Many in the group are fifth-year medical students and very active in the community. I urge and encourage them to keep up their good work.

Earlier this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, visited my electorate to talk about the report into aid effectiveness. This was a very worthwhile visit and many constituents in my electorate were keen to find out where and how our aid money is being spent and learn about what benefits are coming from it. The eight Millennium Development Goals, which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV-AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015, form a blueprint agreed to by all the world's countries and all the world's leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world's poorest.

While the share of poor people is declining, the absolute number of poor in South Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing. Rapid reductions in poverty are not necessarily addressing gender equality and environmental sustainability. Lack of progress in reducing HIV is curtailing improvements in both maternal and child mortality. The expansion of health and education services is not being matched by quality. The UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, has said:

Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. Ending this scourge will require the combined efforts of all, governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, in the context of a stronger and more effective global partnership for development.

Indeed, we have much to do. There is no doubt that overseas aid plays a major role in alleviating global poverty. I place on record my support for the MDGs. (Time expired)