JULIE BISHOP: Good morning everybody and thank you Uncle Michael Allen for that delightful Welcome to Country. I thank the Banksia Foundation and all the partners here today for hosting this event which is designed to communicate to the Australian people the aspirations, the ideals and philosophy behind the Sustainable Development Goals. I think it is so appropriate to align this event with Vivid Sydney - what an extraordinary event that has been for this beautiful city.
The Sustainable Development Goals have been agreed by all nations. This is a remarkable outcome. There was a commitment from each and every nation around the world to reduce poverty, to increase economic opportunity and to aim for peace and prosperity for all.
The 2030 Agenda is ambitious, but it is doable if all nations, all people work together to achieve the goals. The 2030 Agenda seeks to eradicate absolute poverty and embrace inclusive economic growth.
The Australian Government strongly supports the Sustainable Development Goals and I am joined today by my colleague the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. We are committed to ensuring that Australia plays its part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, we helped write the goals. In particular, we had a very significant role to play in a number of them. On the board over there, I have marked the four that were particularly important to Australia: SDG5 gender equality. We argued for that to be a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal. SDG8 on economic growth, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. SDG14 on oceans in particular, we are an island continent and we are part of the Pacific, one of the great oceans of the world. We are also the custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, the most remarkable coral reef in the world. Australia had a particular interest in SDG14. SDG16, peace and governance, again, a very important issue for us.
We are committed to the SDGs. The goals are universal in that all nations have agreed to them, but they also reflect Australia’s values and our outlook: fairness, justice, equality of opportunity. Indeed, the SDGs embrace freedom - political, economic, social, religious. This aligns very much with Australia’s outlook in that we are an open liberal democracy. We are committed to freedoms, the rule of law, democratic institutions. We are also committed to the international rules-based order. That network of alliances and treaties, institutions, norms and conventions underpinned by international law that has evolved since the Second World War to govern the behaviour of nations and how they behave towards each other. There is a very strong alignment between the SDGs and Australia. What is important, though, is that we all work in partnership, government, business, civil society, private sector, the public sector. This is an effort for us all.
The United Nations agreed that each nation should report on progress - how we are faring in achieving goals, what experiences each nation has had, what lessons have been learned and how we can share them. This is called our ‘Voluntary National Review’.
On the 17th of July this year - which happens to be my birthday, so that is how I remembered - Minister Fierravanti-Wells will be at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the UN in New York. Connie will present Australia’s first report. She will submit our Voluntary National Review, but we thought we had better share it with our partners in Australia first. Hence today we are launching in advance of Connie submitting the report to the UN, Australia’s Voluntary National Review.
In particular I want to thank a number of people who have supported it, a number of organisations. The Global Compact Network, thank you for your efforts. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Council of Social Services, the Australia Council for International Development, and the United Nations Association of Australia. So many people have assisted us in the development of our report because there are so many stories to tell.
While we have achieved much here in Australia and we are a prosperous, stable, peaceful country, there is still so much more for us to do here in Australia. Of course, our report will contain details of what we are doing to assist other nations achieve their goals, but I just want to focus just for a moment on what we can do and should be doing here in Australia.
Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a major challenge for this country and the report gives some detail as to what has been achieved and what still needs to be achieved.
One area that I think is absolutely ripe with potential is Indigenous businesses, supporting Indigenous people run their businesses and provide opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Much of this can be achieved through procurement policies of Government and the private sector. The Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy is generating opportunities for Indigenous businesses which in turn generates opportunities for Indigenous people and their families. In fact, the publishing contract for our Voluntary National Review came about through the Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy.
There are a number of corporations throughout Australia who are doing great things through Indigenous procurement, Qantas, Fortescue Metal Group from Western Australia, and many others. I think that that is an area that we can focus a greater effort and it will, of course, align with a number of the SDGs.
I’ve been delighted to see the number of companies that have incorporated the SDGs into their overall mission – Wesfarmers and Worley Parsons - are a couple of examples that you will see. But also, civil society, working not only in Australia but overseas in countries like Myanmar – and I know Connie has just returned from Myanmar – there is some great work that we are doing through civil society to assist other countries achieve their Sustainable Development Goals.
I think that the meeting in New York in July will really give us a perspective for the first time on how countries are going about achieving their SDGs, how seriously they are taking them, what we can learn from others and I really think this will be an enormous push, it will really give it the momentum that we need.
I am also delighted today to launch the Australian SDG website, cunningly named ‘The Australian Sustainable Development Goal website’. This has been developed by the Global Compact Network with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Again, a great idea so that we can track the progress of business, of government, of civil society. We can put a lot of information on the website and we can maintain that momentum that I think is very important.
I am very pleased today to launch the Voluntary National Review and the Australia SDG website.
The other week Connie and I went to the North Pacific. It was a bipartisan trip, we invited along our counterparts from the Labor Party, Senator Penny Wong and Senator Claire Moore - the four of us. It didn’t go unnoticed that the four representatives from Australia were all women – SDG5 – and it sent quite a powerful message to the Pacific, raised an eyebrow or two, but it also sent quite a powerful message to the Pacific where we know the representation of women in politics, in government is at a global low. It is at about 7 per cent whereas the global average is about 23 per cent of female representation in Parliament.
Anyway, to the point, I was really struck by an initiative that Palau has introduced. It is an utterly beautiful island nation in the North Pacific. It is environmentally fragile, it is economically fragile, and yet the people have come together, all of the people have come together, to maintain the pristine environment yet attract tourism to underpin economic activity.
I am going to read to you, if I can find it on my Instagram, a little pledge. What they decided to do at the government level, is to require every person visiting Palau to sign a pledge that is in their passport and you are not able to enter Palau until you get the pledge stamped in your passport and you sign it. They introduced this last November and already it is having an impact on the way tourists treat Palau, just in terms of cleaning up rubbish after themselves, the way they treat the local people, the local flora and fauna. I was so struck by it I want to read it to you. Put this in the context of achieving the SDGs. This is in your passport, the Palau Pledge:
“Children of Palau, I take this pledge as your guest, to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home. I vow to tread lightly, and act kindly and explore mindfully. I shall not take what is not given. I shall not harm what does not harm me. The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.”
It is a beautiful statement. I am just wondering if Peter Dutton will allow me to put it in the passports of people coming to Australia? This is an example of countries coming together to achieve great things. If the island of Palau can ensure that everyone who visits Palau treats its pristine environment with care and love, then I think that that is an example for us all to follow.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you well for your deliberations today. I can assure you that the Australian Government is determined that Australia plays its part in achieving SDGs at home and supporting others achieve them abroad.
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