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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 142


Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (21:23): In October last year I was approached to join the member for Moreton, Graham Perrett, as co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Diabetes, one of the oldest and most established friendship groups in the parliament, originally established in 2000 by the former member for Pearce, Judi Moylan. I thank the member for Hasluck, Ken Wyatt, the retiring chair, for his dedicated and determined leadership of the group.

Since that time I have had a crash-course in diabetes awareness, as Diabetes Australia prevailed upon the member for Moreton and I to attend the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network forum in Vancouver, which in itself was something of a curtain-raiser for the International Diabetes Federation's World Diabetes Congress.

I had recently been given the rather depressing news that the electorate of Grey has the worst incidence of diabetes in the nation. While I had not been aware of this fact earlier, certainly I had come into contact with diabetes sufferers regularly and had some understanding of the challenges they faced. However, while I thought I knew a bit, I certainly learnt a whole lot more, both of the explosion in incidence in the developed world, but surprisingly to me, of the extent, prevalence and damage the disease is causing in the developing world. Quite simply, it is a disaster.

The incident rate in Paraguay, for instance, is almost 10 per cent, which incidentally is not so different to the electorate of Grey, it must be said. In Bermuda it is 13 per cent, in Tuvalu it is 15 per cent, and in Senegal it is 16 per cent. As bad as this sounds, those last three countries, at least, believe that only about half of the sufferers have been diagnosed. That gives rates of around 30 per cent. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that diabetes is costing the world $600 billion annually.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and amputation and the second leading cause, after smoking, of heart disease. We were informed by Dr Ehud Ur that in his province of Nova Scotia, in Canada, one-third of the people admitted to hospital with acute heart disease have diabetes. He told us also that of those admitted without diabetes one in 10 die. Of those with diabetes, the rate is double: two in 10 die as a result of their heart attack. In many cases the delegates were up-front about the challenges facing their countries and the difficulties they have in communicating the message about the risks of obesity and the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

It was encouraging, though, to hear how some jurisdictions are tackling the problem. For instance, we learnt of the attempts of various countries to send a price signal on unhealthy foods, through sugar taxes, of public education programs and of support for sufferers. I was able to report on the Australian government's adoption of the National Diabetes Strategy, the extra $40 million promised in the last election becoming available for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the current campaign led by the Danii Foundation and Diabetes Australia for support for continuous glucose monitoring units to be made available to sufferers.

The conference had the privilege of listening to Dr Susan Alberti from Melbourne, who was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours, just two weeks ago. Susan, a highly successful businesswoman and generous philanthropist, is the founder of the Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation, the previous national president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the holder of a host of other positions serving the diabetic community. She shared her inspirational story, with its genesis in the loss of her daughter to diabetes. For the record, in her spare time she is vice president of the Western Bulldogs.

As I said earlier, my electorate of Grey is identified as having the highest incidence of diabetes in Australia. I have ample incentive to be involved in the national and international efforts to find a cure, to provide suitable treatment for sufferers and, probably most importantly, to provide good public information, especially for those who potentially would fall victim to type 2 diabetes, so that they can make the right decisions in their lives.

Not all diabetes is caused by poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise, but certainly for type 2 diabetes they really increase the risk. Diabetes is both endemic and unfortunately now epidemic. The personal and economic costs of diabetes are increasing rapidly and for the first time in 100 years there is the potential that the life expectancy of future generations will be reduced, not just in Australia, but worldwide.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It being almost 9:30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 21:29.