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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1478

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (3:07 PM) —Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate an answer to a question asked by Senator Milne yesterday on Tuesday, 16 November 2010 in relation to her question to me for the Minister for Health and Ageing.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows—

1. Given the climate change and the ever increasing movement of people, animals and

goods around the world which is increasing the risk of outbreaks of diseases in both human and animal populations, everything from hendra virus to swine flu. Does the government intend to maintain national disease intelligence capacity and Australia’s ability to respond quickly and effectively across state boundaries to contain such


2. Supplementary question 1:

Why has the government decided not to renew the federal finding for the ANU Master of Applied Epidemiology program, which is in the absence of a national centre for disease control, Australia’s only frontline flying squad of Doctors, Vets and

Nurses to protect Australia’s people and Animal populations from epidemics from communicable infectious diseases.

3. Supplementary question 2:

Could the Minister please explain to the senate why a termination of this funding has occurred and was this the Governments deliberate intent to remove the funding or an unintended consequence of the Governments decision to terminate the public health education and research program and will the Minister come back and tell the senate whether the government has found alternate funding of the ANU program which has been so successful in stemming the spread in Australia of about 200 epidemic time expired.

SENATOR LUDWIG—The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

1. Yes. The Australian Government maintains capacity through bodies including the

Australian Health Protection Committee, the Public Health Laboratory Network and the Communicable Disease Networks Australia to work with the States and Territories to ensure early detection and appropriate management of communicable disease threats.

2. While it is acknowledged that the ANU Program has made an important contribution

to building capacity in epidemiology and public health, the Master of Applied

  Epidemiology course is only one of a number of courses that provide trained staff to work in disease surveillance as referred to in the answer to question 1 and elsewhere. Students will continue to be able to access this and related University Master courses through the usual funding mechanisms that include sponsorship from their employers. It is not part of Australia’s front-line disease surveillance and control infrastructure.

3. Public health education, research and training in Australia now has an international

profile and Australia has a strong leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region. Public health is marketed overseas and is attracting students and funds from the region and elsewhere.

Australian institutions are now in a position to seek funding within the normal competitive tertiary education environment and the special subsidy for masters of public health courses is no longer justified. 22 training positions funded by the Commonwealth in 2011 will go to trainees in public health medicine

This Government also continues to support training of public health physicians as part of its specialist training program that will increase by another 400 totaling 900 specialist training places by 2014.