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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10402


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (20:31): I don't know, but I don't think this is going be my last speech, as we always say in this chamber. We know it's not my first speech—you go ahead and make a speech. In this case, I'm not sure if this is going to be my last speech. If it is, I can think of no topic I would rather speak on in this place than the Sustainable Development Goals. This afternoon the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade reported on the recent inquiry that we had on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This inquiry was held over several months. We had over 150 submissions from the community, from individuals, to our Senate committee, because they cared about the Sustainable Development Goals, they knew what the Sustainable Development Goals were and they had hope that into the future our nation would take a strong, coordinated, effective response to these goals as part of the 2015 commitment of over 190 nations at the United Nations to implement these goals.

I've spoken a number of times in this place about why I believe this is an effective framework for policy change across the globe and why it is an exceptional opportunity for people everywhere to genuinely look at that marvellous motto which is the basis of the SDGs: 'leave no-one behind'. If we could agree to look at a strategy to ensure that that particular focus is maintained across not just Australia but across the world, what a world we would have.

The Sustainable Development Goals are based around five key principles: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. This focuses our mind on what we believe would be a sustainable future for our world so that we will be able to work together into the future looking after the people in the world—our planet. Sustainability is very often associated particularly with the issues around environment. That is important, but it's not the only concept—it's sustainable society, sustainable community, sustainable people. We also have the issue of looking at genuine prosperity. If we look at leaving no-one behind, we must ensure that every individual and every family, no matter where they live on this planet, will have access to opportunities so they have an effective future and have hope and optimism into an agreed future. That could only happen if there is an agreement about identifying what it will take across our world to achieve peace.

Most importantly, this agenda looks at developing genuine partnerships so that people will accept no-one can do this alone. If there is a commitment, it must be shared and there must be genuine partnerships. In that vein, our committee met in a number of capital cities, read the submissions and had a number of discussions with key public sector agencies. The way the Australian government has introduced the Sustainable Development Goal response is to focus through the government agencies, creating interdepartmental committees to discuss best practice to develop processes to implement the SDG agenda.

Our committee, after listening to the evidence, felt that there was a need to do more. The people who came to see us put the challenge out there in the work they had done, in the commitment they had made for many years before 2015. This didn't just appear on the agenda; the SDG agenda came out of years of engagement across the globe, looking at how we could best commit to ending the poverty that was put across our world in many areas. People were not having fairness and equality. The Millennium Development Goal agenda led through this, looking at trying to reduce the level of poverty in our world. The next step was developing the SDGs, and our government was active for many years in developing this 2030 Sustainable Development Goal agenda.

The government is in no way ignorant of what the intent would be, and the process was going to focus around an interdepartmental coordinated action looking at what was going to happen. We heard evidence from the departments about how they were operating but, more so, we heard evidence from people across the community who felt that this did not go far enough, that there was still massive ignorance in our nation about exactly what the agenda was. There was a feeling that it impacted on other people; it wasn't something that was for real knowledge or for real action that had to happen.

Amongst the 18 recommendations was that there needed to be clear consideration within the Australian government that there must be a strategy and a plan that is public to which people can refer, where we can talk to each other about what, in fact, we are expected to do to reach this plan that will ensure that we have a focus on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

There is opportunity for change; there's opportunity for action. I really hope that people will take the opportunity to read this report to get a snapshot about what's happening in Australia at the moment as part of our progress to achieve real change and ensure that we actually address the issues of poverty and disadvantage. So many organisations and people took the opportunity to come and see us to talk about how they felt it could operate.

Australia has done its first voluntary review on the progress in Australia of the Sustainable Development Goals, which was handed down last year in Geneva. Did anybody here in this Senate know that even happened? This was a major commitment, a statement by Australia, to the world about what we were doing with the Sustainable Development Goals. There were two mentions on government websites about the fact that our voluntary national review had been handed down. That worries me immensely. If we as a nation have made a commitment, we need to talk about our commitment. We need to engage with the community to ensure what is available, what can happen, and how people can be involved in the process. It is very, very difficult to find mention of the Sustainable Development Goals in a regular way in any government publication, on websites or in the curriculum in schools. There was a particular recommendation to look at engaging our education system in the SDGs because one of the truly hopeful elements we discovered, not only in this inquiry but generally, was that if you work with young people, they get it. They want to be involved in the discussion, they want to know what is the future for their world and they want to be part of taking an active role.

In a previous time here I talked about the work which the Forrest Primary School down the road did in their school program about how the Sustainable Development Goals impacted on them and how they made it real for their community and their families. And that is what gives me hope: the fact that there are pockets of knowledge, commitment and passion that we can tap to actually form an effective partnership so we can take real action.

So the report has been handed down. I really hope that people across the community will take the chance to look at it to see for themselves how they are living now and whether they can be part of the change into the future. I really commend the recommendations to the government. It's not meant as a criticism. It is not meant as anything more than a challenge reflecting the evidence that we got in our committee—evidence from people who do care and who know about these processes.

I want to end with a quote that was made by an 11-year-old. Miles said to us:

The SDGs are hope. They are a shining beacon for a world with more equality, less poverty and a healthier environment.

The SDGs have made us realise we are not helpless.