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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18728


Mr FARMER (4:14 PM) —Diabetes does not discriminate, and that is why I am only too keen to support this motion by the member for Blair. A person can be tall, short, thin, large, dark, Catholic or Muslim and still suffer from diabetes. In my many years in public life, I have worked closely with diabetes sufferers and research organisations. During my time as a long-distance runner I undertook a charity run, from Australia's northernmost point to its southern-most point, to raise funds and awareness for Diabetes Australia to undertake research. I ran 5,969.2 kilometres to get this message through to all Australians, including doctors. I felt compelled to do this because of the massive number of people who suffer diabetes. The most recent statistics show that 1.2 million Australians have diabetes and over half do not know that they have it.

Type 1 diabetes is the cruellest of all forms of diabetes because, more often than not, it affects young children and even babies. Also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, type 1 affects an estimated 155,000 Australians, and over 750 new cases are diagnosed each year. Type 1 is the most chronic disease in children today. It occurs more often in children than cancer, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. The most tragic part of type 1 diabetes is that it mainly affects people less than 15 years of age, and treatment is by way of insulin injections up to four times a day. These injections help maintain normal blood glucose levels. Unavoidable fluctuations in blood glucose levels still cause many patients to develop organ damage such as eye disease, blindness, kidney failure and neuropathy, just to name a few.

Nobody wants this, and that is why it is important that we try to find a cure for or better ways to treat diabetes. This Liberal government is strongly committed to ensuring that Australia is positioned at the forefront of global research aimed at finding a cure. This commitment was demonstrated through the announcement in March this year that the government would give $5 million to help establish the Diabetes Vaccine Development Centre. This is the first centre in the world aimed at developing a vaccine or preventative immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes. Developing a vaccine for this potentially debilitating condition would be welcomed around the world. It would mean that children would not have to endure the four injections of insulin a day and the multiple finger-pricks to test their blood sugar levels; they would no longer have to worry about life-threatening complications.

The vaccine centre builds on research being funded by the Liberal government to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. In fact, in 2001 a total of $25.1 million was allocated to seven research projects. One of these projects was to undertake research into pancreatic islet transplants—the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation contributed $17.6 million to it and the government contributed $7.5 million. The long-term goal of the project is to make islet cell transplantation a safe and effective option for all patients with diabetes.

In the past few years, the Liberal government has made a strong commitment to diabetes research, committing over $30 million. While we are very proud of this record, it does not mean that we are satisfied—we will not be satisfied until we find a cure. I for one support more research into diabetes and am hopeful that my government will continue to fund further research into all aspects of diabetes research, from transplants to vaccines. I hope that further research to make safe and effective treatments for diabetes occurs soon and that we can improve the lives of the 155,000 young people suffering from type 1 diabetes.