New analysis from Griffith University has highlighted the highly variable performance in Australia’s political parties with respect to aligning their policies with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

In the wake of a new report from the UN revealing that 1 million species globally are under threat of extinction, the analysis brings into stark focus the areas in which Australia’s parties are making headway — and those suffering from significant shortfalls.

Led by Dr Robert Hales, the study examined the policies of Australia’s 10 major and significant minor parties, and rated them on a numerical scale from 1 (minimal evidence of alignment with SDGs) to 3 (significant evidence of alignment with SDGs).

The rating system also included a score of 0, for policies that showed no evidence of alignment with the SDGs, and a ‘negative’ score, which indicated opposition to the SDG in question.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a UN agreement — of which Australia is a signatory — which measure progress on economic, social and environmental performance.

There are 17 goals, which have been broken down into a further 169 specific targets. Australia is presently ranked No. 37 in the world on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Rob Hales

“Given that Australia is an OECD country, Australia’s ranking is surprising,” Dr Hales said.

“Support across all political parties for the Sustainable Development Goals would be an important step if Australia were to improve its ranking.”

As it stands, the Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party are the most closely aligned with the SDGs, ranking ‘significantly’ for 14 and 13 goals respectively, with the remainder of the goals ranking moderate.

The Liberal Party, conversely, ranked ‘significant’ for just one goal – Goal 3 – to ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’. For the remaining goals, nine ranked moderate, six ranked minimal, and one ranked zero (Goal 17, to ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development).

Their partners in the Coalition, the National Party, didn’t score ‘significant’ for any goal, scored moderate on three goals, scored minimal on six goals, and scored zero for the remaining eight goals. They were outperformed by the Centre Alliance, who also failed to achieve a ‘significant’ ranking for any goal, but scored slightly better across the remaining goals.

“The Labour Party and the Greens party policies both have mostly significant alignment with all the SDG targets, but there is still room for improvement,” Dr Hales said.

“The continued focus on economic development as the dominant measure and mode of progress in Australia needs to be broadened to include other aspects of progress.”

Both the United Australia Party and Katter’s Australia Party scored zero across the board, with the exception of one goal each — the United Australia Party scored a ranking of moderate for Goal 5 (‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’) and Katter’s Australia Party a ranking of minimal for Goal 2 (‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’).

Derren Hinch’s Justice Party only just out-rates them, earning a ranking of ‘minimal’ for Goal 5 and a ranking of ‘moderate’ for Goal 16 (‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’).

Although Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party scored zero for nine of the goals — and scored negative strikes for four goals where they actively oppose specific SDGs — it does pick up ‘minimal’ scores for Goal 1 (‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’), Goal 4 (‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’), Goal 5 and Goal 6 (‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’).

Meanwhile, Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party turns out to be the worst performing party, scoring negatively for five goals where they actively oppose specific SDGs, score zero for eleven goals — showing no alignment, and just one positive score — a ranking of ‘minimal’ for Goal 16.

Interestingly, the SDG with the greatest success rate for alignment is Goal 5 (gender equality), with only two parties showing no evidence of alignment to the goal. Goal 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies) was just on its heels, with only three parties not taking evident action to meet it.

“The five smaller parties had predominantly zero evidence of policy alignment with the SDGs because of a lack of content and objectives related specifically to the SDG targets,” Dr Hales said.

“More broadly, it is evident that there is a significant variance in commitment to the SDGs, and the UN itself, among Australia’s parties, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any genuine progress in these areas unless we’re able to achieve a greater unity of vision in terms of the things that matter to us — and these goals should matter to us.”