image of seventeen sustainable development goals

Thank you very, very much and can I start by adding my acknowledgement of country.

Can I also start by acknowledging my parliamentary colleagues: first of all, Senator Claire Moore, who is the Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific; Senator Lisa Singh, who I understand is also here; and I understand Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Andrew Laming will be joining us later.

Can I thank Sam Mostyn and John Thwaites, Cathy Oke and all of the organisers of today's event. 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here again as part of this event – almost 18 months have gone past since we gathered in Sydney for that [inaugural Australian SDG] summit.

The summit is part of a collective national approach to making sure that we are doing all that we can to implement Australia's commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals.

The forerunner of the SDGs were the more narrowly focused Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2000, including by then Prime Minister Howard. 

While the Millennium Development Goals had a specific focus, his words at the United Nations on 7 September 2000 are just as relevant for the universal SDGs today, and I just wanted to share some of those words.

"The ideals a nation holds for itself, and for others, are often found more in the everyday speech of its people than in the rhetoric of politics or diplomacy.

Thus in Australia, it is said that all men and women, and by extension all nations, are entitled to a 'fair go'.  For Australians, those two short words carry within them the universal right to freedom, for the peaceful pursuit of prosperity and for the attainment of self reliance and self respect.

And at the beginning of a new century, it is appropriate to recognise the effort and achievement of the United Nations in striving for these goals.

Australia was a founding member of the UN.  And in all the years since, our fellow member states have never found us wanting in practical support for countries in distress, for international human rights or the pressing economic needs of the developing world.  Indeed, bridging the economic divide must remain a key objective for us all.

We are, and will always be, committed to the United Nations Organisation and the principles of mutual support upon which it was founded.  The concept of a 'fair go' requires not merely passive observance of others' efforts but active assistance in their endeavours.

Australia is blessed with natural resources, animated by the creativity of people drawn from around the globe, and shares with every other nation on earth ties of history or geography or culture or mutual interest.

And in claiming our rights as a sovereign nation, we freely acknowledge the contribution we must make to others.  We know that for nations, as with individuals, no rights come without responsibility, no prosperity comes without price.

The Sustainable Development Goals are part of the 2030 Agenda adopted by world leaders in September 2015. 

During my two years as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I have continued to have a discussion about the SDGs with a wide range of stakeholders. 

What is clear, however, is that many do not understand what they are, why we have them but more importantly, how they will directly benefit us all.

Indeed, for some, the 2030 Agenda represents world government. 

The following quote from one of the many emails I have received and it sums up a strongly a view that is held by some Australians:

"Agenda 2030 is evil, undemocratic, and a pathway to One World Government, and contravenes the Australian Constitution …"

In this room today, we all understand the what, the why and the benefit of the SDGs. 

It is about ensuring regional stability, security and prosperity.

Our challenge is to bring the Australian public with us.

That is the challenge that we have.

The SDGs are a reflection of our values and ambitions.  

They are the contemporary manifestation of the "fair go" so succinctly enunciated by then Prime Minister Howard.

For example, Goal 8, regarding decent work and economic growth, aligns with Australia's value of doing the hard yards for decent pay.

That is not an idea out of the United Nations – it is a common Australian value that binds us together.

Likewise, Goal 10 about reduced inequalities is very much about our famous value of a "fair go" for everyone.

With our long history of free, open and inclusive education, Australians clearly value a world where everyone gets opportunities to learn and to grow, as per Goal 4.

So, because the SDGs are so consistent with our national values, many of the priorities we are pursuing form part and parcel of the Australian Government's agenda both here and abroad.

Innovation, infrastructure, affordable energy – Goals 9 and 7, for example – are all major areas of Government attention.

But Australia is not the only country that sees the link between reducing poverty and inequality, and building a safer, more stable region.

The SDGs are an increasingly high priority for some of our most important partners in ASEAN and the G20.

How each country meets those commitments is, of course, up to them.

That said, Australia has a wealth of experience that we can, and that we should, share with people from other countries, working together to strengthen global sustainable development but also learning from the experiences of other countries.

We have a comprehensive guiding framework in our Foreign Policy White Paper, which puts those Australian values very much at the heart of our foreign policy.

Our world is deeply interconnected – if that world is safer and more successful, we in Australia will be safer and more successful as a result.

People getting into a helicopter

As part of that, the Australian overseas development assistance program is something we should all be very proud of.

Through it, we support developing countries to achieve their own milestones within the SDG framework.

Whether it's economic growth, gender equality, environment, security or governance, we help to build populations that are healthier, better educated, more productive, more sustainable and more capable to build a safe and prosperous region and world for us all.

Through it all, we need to keep working to make sure that our ideas and efforts are innovative and targeted to reach maximum potential of all our collective resources.

SDG 6 - clean water and sanitation

Goal 6, about clean water and sanitation, is I believe at the centre of much of the SDG agenda.

I am indebted to Professor Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine whom I met last week at the 5th Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Conference in Brisbane for a couple of these slides.

Poo is Public Enemy No 1!  Why?

Because one gram of human faeces alone can contain nine billion microbes, a bigger number than there are people on the planet. 

Human faeces kill 500 million children a year!

In fact, diarrhoea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

This is more dangerous than cars, guns, and accidents put together.

Every morning we all go through the same routine – we wake up, go to the bathroom, we wash our faces, we clean our teeth.  We all take clean water for granted.

However, this simple routine is something that millions of people currently live without and suffer from its consequences.

Today, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion people lack safely managed hygiene services.

It is a shocking statistic that almost 1,000 children die each day through preventable diseases caused by a lack of clean drinking water and sanitation.

toilet infographic - details in text

This poster is from the year 2000, the launch of the Millennium Development Goals. 

The number was still the same in 2015.  Though more toilets have been built, population has also increased.

However, things are improving - for example, India has gone from 40 per cent of households with a toilet to almost 80 per cent in the last two years. 

Experts report that hygiene promotion is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. 

For every dollar invested in water and sanitation, an average of at least $5 is returned in increased productivity.

The world is waking up to calls for an increased focus on water-related challenges and recognition of how closely those challenges are tied to broader economic development and poverty reduction.

Anyone here today who has come from outside our urban centres would be all too familiar that Australia has built up a lot of expertise in battling through droughts and water scarcity.

The Turnbull Government has established the Australian Water Partnership to share these lessons – to give others a leg up in overcoming a challenge that we in Australia know so well.

We are providing $20 million over four years to this initiative, which I am pleased to say now involves 141 Australian partners coming together to share their respective technical expertise.

children washing hands

We will also build on our deep experience from the Civil Society WASH Fund, a $103 million initiative, which will bring Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services to over 3.5 million people across 19 countries.

This initiative ends in June, but it will be replaced by the $110 million Water for Women Fund, ramping up the focus on sanitation and hygiene issues – areas in which women are disproportionately affected, and which have later effects in terms of access to education and other issues.

people looking through microscopes

Goal 3, regarding good health and wellbeing, is something Australia and our neighbours greatly value.

The Turnbull Government recognises this and is delivering a $300 million Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific Region, which represents the largest health and medical research commitment ever made under Australia's overseas development assistance program.

The World Health Organisation has told us it is a not a case of if, but a case of when another major pandemic will strike.

Australia's health security is linked to the health security of our Indo-Pacific neighbours.

a mosquito

In an inter-connected world, mosquito-borne diseases, for example, do not respect borders and they undermine the health and working capacity of hundreds of millions of people around the world, including Australians.

A major disease outbreak could potentially devastate communities through loss of life, disruption of tourism, trade, investment and
people movement, setting back regional economic growth and development.

Over one million people lose their lives from these illnesses each year through dengue, zika and chikungunya, just to name a few.

Later today, I will be visiting the World Mosquito Program at Monash University, to see first-hand how our overseas development assistance funds are being used by innovative Australian scientists to help keep Australia and our region safe and healthy.

Claire Moore and I bumped into the researchers doing fieldwork when we were in Kirabati last year.

A mosquito bite remains a mosquito bite – I know, as I get lots of mosquito bites – but it does not have to turn into a death sentence.

Our investments are directly targeted at mitigating the risk and achieving not only SDG 6, but many other goals as well.

Initiatives like the World Mosquito Program demonstrate the power of innovation and of partnership.

a group of children reading information about the sustainable development goals

Working together as a group, partnerships for the SDGs and the opportunity to connect with each other are very important in a day like today.

They highlight a common purpose which we employees, and volunteers, stakeholders, and the community and the wider world need to experience.

A key example of how we will come together is through voluntary national review, which will report on our SDGs and that is a program for all of us to be involved in.

I have been given a "one minute" [warning], so I will have to just quickly go through this!

Can I just say that in preparing for that review, DFAT will be consulting with as many people as possible: businesses, NGOs, representative bodies and academics with other departments coordinating our outreach.

We've done case studies and we look forward to delivering our report in July in New York.

A lot of excellent work is underway, but the most important thing is we need champions and I have to say, Michael Smith, thank you very much for your very salutary assessment, but we need champions to champion SDGs and to raise their profile.

I am certainly trying to do my part but we all have to collectively do this to ensure that the SDGS become commonly known in all of our Australian households.

Can I conclude by thanking all of the organisers for today's summit; can I particularly thank DFAT for the work that they have done.

I encourage all of you to take stock of progress, to debate how we can do things differently, to brainstorm fresh ideas that contribute to better results – economic, social and environmental.

Can I thank you for attending today, you will hear from some excellent speakers and some very bright minds here in this room and I look forward to hearing about your deliberations.

Thank you for your very kind attention.

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