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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8496

Ms HUSAR (Lindsay) (12:51): It's my privilege to rise today in this chamber to acknowledge the motion moved by Dr Freelander, my colleague, about the importance of vaccines and immunising children. The motion notes that two million to three million children per year are saved by vaccines and talks about our country's incredible vaccine program, but also that 1.5 million children still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Our strong immunisation program is critical to eradicating life-threatening diseases. Failure to vaccinate is a threat to public health. As leaders of this country we need to do everything possible to ensure that parents, family members, carers and the general community know about the deadly risks of failing to vaccinate children—1.5 million children die every year of preventable diseases. Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health inventions to date, averting the deaths of two million to three million people per year globally. That is a phenomenal number. It's something we should all be supporting and not taking for granted.

Immunisations have directly affected the eradication of polio, with only three polio-endemic countries remaining. I put on record my thanks to Rotary, who do a great job with their polio eradication program. I also recognise the great work of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has managed to bring together the public and private sectors with the goal of creating access to new and unused vaccines for children living in the world's poorest countries, something we can and should help with. Gavi has saved an estimated nine million lives and supported the vaccination of more than 640 million children in those countries.

I know firsthand the effects of meningococcal disease, how horrendous it can be and the cost to a family. My only sister contracted the deadly disease 17 years ago. She spent weeks and weeks in an overseas hospital and was actually in a coma. The impact of what she went through has left its mark on my family. The possibility of not bringing her home was very real. The meningococcal B vaccine was not available at the time. I notice that we've had some very critical developments in managing and vaccinating against meningococcal, and we have not seen as many outbreaks as we had previously seen before the vaccine was more widely available. I note that the recent shortage of that meningococcal B vaccine has been resolved, and I'm pleased that that action has now been taken to protect children from this devastating disease.

Any steps that undermine our population's health always should and need to be called out. We need a national education campaign that delivers the message that vaccines are safe, effective and absolutely save lives. This should be included in advertising and information based on reliable science, not Dr Google or opinion. The government needs to do more to ensure that strides are made in making vaccines readily available and accessible to all children, rather than cower to the voice of a minority in the Senate as a sap for a vote, including saying that vaccines lead to autism. I would still rather raise a child on the autism spectrum than face having to bury that child.

It is vitally important that our public hospital system is not placed under any more duress. Out in Lindsay, where I live, our hospital is always under-resourced and under pressure, and there are no plans to put more staff in the hospital currently. So an outbreak from unvaccinated people would certainly cause that hospital to go even further onto its knees.

It's now up to all of us in here to make sure that vaccines, which are a preventative health strategy that supports our health system, are continued. The importance of them is that they save us money as a country and they save lives. A strongly supported vaccine program results in herd immunity. That's where strong members of the community who can be vaccinated are vaccinated in order to help those who are weaker and unable to be vaccinated because they're vulnerable—they're either too ill or too young or they're immunocompromised.

We have seen that this government has been unsupportive, in the past, of the Gardasil vaccination program, which was designed to support girls and women against human papillomavirus, most notably because they said it would lead to promiscuity among girls. However, we now see that it's prevented 70 per cent of infections that can cause cervical cancer. I note, though, that those same MPs weren't out in an a chorus of opposition to Gardasil when we extended it to the boys. I place on the record my support for this private member's motion, and I do so knowing that vaccines are important.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 12:56 to 16:00