Australia was active in shaping the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs), and supported the inclusion of standalone goals for economic
growth (SDG8), peace and good governance (SDG16), oceans (SDG14), and gender
Coalition Senators welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to implementing
the SDGs in Australia. Achieving the SDGs is in Australia's interests because
lasting regional and global prosperity, productivity and stability. The SDGs
are consistent with Australian Government priorities and long-standing efforts
across a range of sectors such as health, education, agriculture, water, the
environment, the economy, and gender equality.
Coalition Senators note that in supporting the SDGs, the
Federal Government was clear that it wanted to see meaningful action over
benchmarks for benchmarks sake. This is the same approach Australia took to its
Presidency of the G20 in 2014.
That said, Coalition Senators firmly contend that Australia
as the most free, democratic and prosperous nation in the world should be
considered as the gold-standard in terms of all of the SDGs. While there is
always room for improvement, Coalition Senators are disappointed by the
approach taken by Labor and Greens which focuses on over-regulating the
implementation of these goals rather than either celebrating the positive
situation Australia is in and how we can better support lagging nations around
the world to implement the SDGs.
The Federal Government's governance
Australia has successfully presented its first Voluntary
National Review (VNR) and established the whole of government arrangements
required to advance the SDGs.
Since first committing to the SDGs in 2015, the Federal
Government has decided to 'mainstream' the SDGs across government. This has
involved the creation of governance arrangements and initiatives that are
facilitating the implementation of the SDGs across government without overturning
longstanding budgetary and policy processes. Individual departments and
agencies have been given the flexibility to integrate the SDGs into their work,
and share information and best practice through an Interdepartmental Committee
The IDC is co-chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade (DFAT) and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
(PM&C). It is comprised of Deputy Secretaries representing a range of departments
and agencies, demonstrating the Federal Government's commitment to the SDGs.
Among other things, the IDC provides a forum for ensuring
that data is contributed to the Federal Government's online Reporting Platform
on the SDG Indicators. Launched in July 2018, the Platform is expected to
reduce the potential reporting burden and streamline reporting for other
purposes, such as the Sendai Framework. The Platform was described in the
evidence as 'a great initiative [that] provides a useful centralised database
where one can access official data on the SDGs'.
Working with non-government stakeholders
Progress on the SDGs requires partnership with all sectors
of Australian society and all levels of government. The IDC has received
information from business and non-profit stakeholders, a positive practice
which is expected to continue.
Many stakeholders were also invited to provide input during
the development of Australia's first VNR, including local, state and territory
governments; civil society organisations; business bodies; science agencies and
universities; communities and individuals. This consultative approach resulted
in Australia's successful presentation of its VNR to the United Nations in
The Federal Government has partnered with stakeholders more
broadly, for example, it provided funding for the 2018 Australian SDGs Summit.
In addition, it has supported the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) to
engage the private sector on the SDGs and to develop the Australian SDG website.
This website provides Australia with 'a live and ongoing platform to centralise
and showcase action being taken across government, business, civil society and
academia to advance the SDGs in the Australian context'.
Supporting the SDGs across the region
Australia's overseas development program, which was $3.9
billion in 2017–18, already makes a strong contribution to the SDGs.
Coalition Senators accept evidence from DFAT that it is 'actively supporting
developing country partners to engage with the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda', with
a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
Coalition Senators also recognise and welcome the Federal
Government’s shift in focus to ensure that its overseas development program is
outcomes focused rather than on simple financial outlays.
Evidence to the Inquiry largely agreed that aspects of
Australia's official development assistance (ODA) programme, particularly
relating to gender equality and disability inclusive development, are in
alignment with the SDGs.
Coalition Senators also welcome the Government’s focus on providing meaningful
assistance and support to countries in the Indo-Pacific on the implementation
of the SDGs to help foster economic growth, peace and good governance.
Therefore, Coalition Senators concur with the Committee's
recommendation that the Australian Government continue to integrate the SDGs
throughout the international development program in line with the Government’s
commitment to an outcomes focused ODA programme.
The focus of the United Nations
While Coalition Senators remain supportive of the SDGs and
the implementation of them, we are concerned with the continued approach of the
United Nations in investing time and resources in assessing Australia’s
technical compliance with both the SDGs and other areas of government policies
while turning a blind eye to genuine human rights abuses elsewhere in the
world. An example of this is the continual criticism of Australia’s approach to
ensure an orderly migration programme to prevent drownings at sea while at the
same time, the UN has been silent on the plight of Asia Bibi.
Similarly, Coalition Senators find it difficult to have
confidence in the SDGs relating to improving human rights in circumstances
where the UN Security Council continues to include amongst its membership some
of the worst human rights offenders in modern history.
Noting that the Australian taxpayer funds the UN to the tune
of tens of millions of dollars each year, Coalition Senators encourage the
unelected officials of the UN to reconsider some of its recent actions which seem
to indicate it wants to be a left-wing think tank rather than a promoter of
peace and good to the world.
Coalition Senators are concerned that many of the
Committee's recommendations would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy,
regulation and expense for no benefit whatsoever.
This is particularly evident given that the SDGs are in
alignment with Australian values and the Federal Government is already taking
action to promote the agenda. Its responsible approach to mainstreaming the
SDGs across the Federal Government has already put in place the foundations
needed to pursue the goals.
On that basis, Coalition Senators respectfully encourage the
Government to ignore the recommendations of the majority report.
Senator the Hon Eric Abetz
Senator the Hon James McGrath
Deputy Chair LNP
Senator for Queensland
Liberal Senator for
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