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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2855


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (19:18): Sunday, 24 March, is World TB Day. I place my great support on the record for this day of recognition. I also want to place on the record the name of a great champion in this place on the scourge of TB, and that is the member for Leichhardt. Recently I was informed of a very sad event. I want to join with the member for Leichhardt in expressing my condolences to the family of Catherina Abraham, the 20-year-old girl from Daru Island who recently passed away from extensively drug-resistant TB.

TB is not a distant problem for Australia. It is our responsibility and it is in our interest to increase our efforts against TB globally. More than half of the world's TB cases occur in the Asia-Pacific region and in countries right here on our doorstep, like Papua New Guinea. On World TB Day 2013, it is important to recognise that the WHO 2012 Global TB Report recognised that there were 1.2 million cases of TB in the Asia-Pacific region in 2011, and 202,800 people died from the disease. Regrettably, right here at home, Indigenous Australians are eight times more likely to contract TB. Our region deserves and needs an urgent and consistent response over the long term.

The WHO 2012 Global Tuberculosis Report also details 8.7 million new cases of TB, with 13 per cent representing co-infections with HIV, and 1.4 million deaths from tuberculosis in 2011, including 64,000 deaths among children. Most alarming though is the increasing levels of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, MDR-TB, and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, EDR-TB. While TB rates are falling globally, rates of MDR-TB are on the rise, with approximately 33,000 cases of MDR-TB in the Asia-Pacific region in 2011, according to the WHO 2012 report.

This is not the time for Australia to be pulling back on our efforts to tackle TB. There must be a scale up in the disease response to avoid an increase in drug resistance. The Global Fund's fight against AIDS, TB and malaria provides 80 per cent of external funding for TB. The Global Fund is critical to the long term funding of TB programs. Therefore it is of great concern that the government recently cut its current contribution to the fund by $11 million, from $70 million to $59 million. Now is not the time for the government to be cutting even more funding from our foreign aid budget to pay for its multi-billion-dollar border security failures.

There will be more needless deaths like that of Catherina Abraham's if we do not maintain our commitment to the Global Fund that is leading the fight. One death from TB in our region or here at home is one death too many. In the 21st century we should be aiming for zero TB deaths throughout the world and throughout the Asia-Pacific. I hope that this year we do not see any more funding hijacked by this incompetent government and cut from Australia's foreign aid budget. This World TB Day, we should reflect on the need to show our commitment to properly funding the Global Fund in this fight to ensure that TB becomes a disease consigned to history.