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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6304

Senator BARNETT (10:17 PM) —I wish to highlight for the Senate that tomorrow is World Diabetes Day. Each year 14 November is World Diabetes Day, and it is an important day. I want to place that on record and advise in advance that tomorrow a motion on diabetes will be put and, I was advised by honourable senators during notices of motion, will be passed with the consent of senators on both sides of this house. I thank the Senate in advance for that. Subject to how that goes tomorrow, I am certainly looking forward to 14 November. I wish to outline tonight on the adjournment what the motion is along the lines of.

There are seven points for the Senate to note. The first is `the alarming rise in the number of people with type 2 diabetes', estimated to be one million people here in Australia, with half of that number actually being undiagnosed. That means these people are guaranteed to have health complications over a period of time. They have a serious and adverse health future. They can suffer a whole range of health complications, from heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease and eyesight problems to problems with limbs, such as hands and feet. For example, last year 69 Tasmanians had amputations from the knee down, and that is a scary thought. It is not something that you wish to dwell upon but it is a fact, and it is a fact that we need to take into account in this country, because we do have an epidemic. It is not just me saying this; this is being said by all the experts, and I acknowledge the International Diabetes Institute and also Professor Don Chisholm, who is leading the diabetes research and the Diabetes Strategy Group in this country. They have said that we have an epidemic in this country and in fact world wide.

I want to refer to a recent landmark study called DiabCost Australia, which said that type 2 diabetes is costing Australians a staggering $3 billion a year, with the bill for each person with diabetes averaging nearly $11,000 in expenditure and benefits. That is a lot of money per year for those people. According to the study, as the complications of diabetes increase, the costs per person are estimated to escalate from $4,020 to $9,645 when there are both microvascular and macrovascular problems.

Early detection is the key. Early detection through screening programs and action to slow or prevent the onset of complications will see reductions in health costs and will improve and maintain quality of life for individuals with type 2 diabetes. With diabetes you can have a good healthy lifestyle, as long as the diabetes is managed properly. That is the key and that is why we need to identify those 500,000 Australians out there who do not know they have it. Once they know, they can do something about it: they can manage their health outcomes. I certainly want to make that a top priority of my time in this parliament. It has been a priority in my time as a member of Diabetes Australia in Tasmania and as a member of its national board.

I want to commend Diabetes Australia for the work that they do as a peak body for people with diabetes in this country, representing those one million Australians. I compliment them, particularly Graham Harris, who is the president, and Brian Conway, the executive director. They will both be in Parliament House tomorrow, when we will have an education and awareness day, and I want to thank Diabetes Australia for assisting in the hosting of that event. It is being hosted by the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group, which is chaired by Judi Moylan with the support of Dick Adams, Cameron Thompson, Dr Mal Washer and Jann McFarlane—all in the House of Representatives—and me. The membership has grown: just recently there were 23-odd members and I understand that another person has joined up even today. I encourage members of parliament to consider joining and supporting the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group.

Tomorrow, we are hosting this special day. It is the first time we have ever done it in Parliament House and there will be opportunities for educational awareness and opportunities to find out more about diabetes. I thank Diabetes Australia for the support they are providing tomorrow. I also thank the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund for the work that they are doing to support us and for the work that they are doing in raising money for research, particularly for type 1 diabetes. The contribution of the landmark study of DiabCost Australia will go towards better informing government and the public of a significant public health problem.

On my recent visit to the United States, I found out that nearly 50 per cent of the deaths in the United States could have been postponed or prevented altogether as a result of better public health outcome—and that is a key point. The position is very similar here in Australia. If we get better public health outcomes and if we live a better and healthier lifestyle, we can avoid these health complications. There are 100,000 Australians at present with type 1 diabetes—that is, insulin dependent diabetes—and I am one of those. I wish to acknowledge that the government has recognised the public and personal burden of diabetes as a national health priority and that is good news.

The motion that I will move tomorrow has six points. Firstly, it urges the government to continue the programs to raise public awareness of the high risk of undiagnosed and untreated cases of type 2 diabetes and urges the government to take whatever steps are necessary to identify those who are undiagnosed with type 2 diabetes. If that does not occur, we will have a serious health problem not only for our health system but also with respect to those Australians because they will be guaranteed to become unhealthy and seriously so in the longer term, including death as an outcome. I urge all members of the government and all members of the public to take this on board as a serious issue.

Secondly, it urges the government to support access to new medications for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes while ensuring that the Australian taxpayers get value for money through appropriate pricing arrangements. Thirdly, it urges the government to continue to encourage people diagnosed with diabetes to undergo regular medical tests, including eye testing so as to prevent complications.

Fourthly, it urges the government to ensure adequate funding for further research into prevention and treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and a cure for type 1 diabetes. That is obviously a top priority and that is why I compliment the JDRF for the work they do in raising money—in fact, raising millions of dollars a year not only in this country but in the United States and around the world for a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Fifthly, it urges the government to develop a strong education program encouraging appropriate diet and exercise regimes to minimise the risk of type 2 diabetes. That is one of the reasons I am hosting a forum in Tasmania on 29 November on childhood obesity, the problems and the possible solutions. We are receiving good support for that and I encourage as many Tasmanians as possible to attend and become more aware of the problems of childhood obesity and where it can lead.

Sixthly, it urges the government to develop strategies to heighten awareness of the rising levels of obesity particularly in young Australians and the associated adverse health effects of obesity. I want to acknowledge the wonderful support we received from CanTeen Tasmania and Eat Well Tasmania in organising that forum in Tasmania. They are groups that are particularly concerned about children and their health outcomes. We are looking forward to a great educational day and a great awareness day.

Finally, I want to acknowledge again the work of Diabetes Australia, the JDRF, and the Australian Diabetes Society endocrinologists who formed together to show that they are not only interested in themselves but interested in their patients and the people that they look after. I also acknowledge the work of the Australian Diabetes Educators Association, the work of the nurse educators who are out there and the work of our own nurse educators here in Parliament House and thank them for their support in arranging tomorrow's World Diabetes Day education and awareness day.