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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4936


Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (12:45): I support the motion on polio eradication put before the chamber by the member for Fremantle. Polio has been one of the scourges of the human race. To think that we are very close to eliminating this disease from the planet is a remarkable thing. But, as this motion indicates, there is more to do.

As a patron of Polio Australia, I take a special interest in this and I acknowledge the words of the member for Lyons about post-polio syndrome. Until quite recently, this was largely unrecognised as a problem, but there are several hundred thousand sufferers. These are people who had a slight touch of polio—maybe not the full paralysis—as children and who are facing difficulties late in life as a result. Members of the Post-Polio Network will be in the House in the next couple of weeks. I acknowledge the work they do under John Tierney to keep that issue alive.

I also acknowledge the work of Rotary. Rotary International have, I think, contributed close to a billion dollars over the last 15 or 16 years. The members of Rotary are in clubs in towns and cities all over the world and they have done a magnificent job. But we still have some way to go.

Before I go any further, I note that I find it a great irony that in Australia we now have people who are refusing to vaccinate their children—when we know what this disease can do. I believe I was one of the first intake of children vaccinated. I still very clearly remember lining up in the mid-sixties at Warialda primary school to have the pink vaccine placed on my tongue. Some of my older schoolmates—some of the kids in the high school—were already then showing visible signs of paralysis from polio. That is how close my generation came to this great scourge.

I will finish by speaking about the Young Australian of the Year, Akram Azimi. Akram was in Parliament House a few months ago and I had the privilege to meet him. He is very passionate about the eradication of polio, because he believes the vaccination program—instigated by Rotary—delivered to him as a small child in Afghanistan saved his life. His family were forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. As a small preschooler, he—with his family—escaped to Pakistan. In Pakistan he saw children begging in the streets who were badly paralysed from the effects of polio. When he asked his mother what was wrong with them, she told him it was polio. 'How come I won't get it too?' he asked. She told him that it was because he had been protected, protected by the vaccine provided by Rotary.

Akram Azimi is coming to my electorate in a couple of weeks time. Over a couple of days, we will be speaking to schools and to the Rotary clubs. He is in fact a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary—a great tribute from Rotary for someone who is, I think, only 25 years of age.

I think that this is something that we cannot give up on. We are so close. I believe that India is about to be named as being polio free, but we do have some hot spots on the world. I acknowledge the contribution the government made recently, and I believe that, as a developed country, we should continue that support for the eradication of polio throughout the globe.

We are privileged to live in the country we live in. So often we take good health for granted. In this day and age there are children being born and growing up under threat of this terrible debilitating disease of polio—even possible death—when prevention is so easy. It is a shame, and we should be doing more about it.