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Thursday, 9 February 2012
Page: 545

Mr ENTSCH (LeichhardtChief Opposition Whip) (09:50): by leave—I move, as an amendment:

That paragraph 3 be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

(3) notes both the Federal and Queensland governments have indicated they will terminate the tuberculosis clinics on Saibai and Boigu islands which currently provide vital tuberculosis surveillance and clinical care for Papua New Guinea nationals, and reduce the risk of the emergence of drug resistant strains of tuberculosis;

This is certainly a matter of life and death, particularly to people living in the western provinces of Papua New Guinea and, of course, those Torres Strait Islander Australians who are very near neighbours to Papua New Guinea. I thank the government for indicating their support for this and recognising the seriousness of this issue. Tuberculosis is now endemic in this region and we are seeing a rising death toll as the medications that are being used there are becoming less and less effective and because of the inadequate delivery of services, due in many cases to difficulty in access. While I appreciate that there is a need to eventually build capacity in Papua New Guinea so that they are able to deal with this problem, that is in fact a long way off and we are seeing deaths now on a regular basis as Papua New Guinean citizens struggle to get access to some level of support. It is critical that we continue to maintain the frontline services that are there. While it is great that we are looking at building capacity at the Daru Hospital, if you have a look at the geography of the area, to get access to those services in Daru people from some of the villages that are scattered to the west in the Western Province area have to travel to that hospital in an open dinghy because there are no roads. At times, they have to travel for up to 14 hours just to get access to those services. As such, it is important that we maintain services in island communities like Saibai and Boigu, which are less than a 15-minute dingy ride from the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

I appreciate the genuine attempt by the government to support this. I look forward to continued negotiations to ensure that we get a very positive outcome. The one thing that we cannot afford to do is to withdraw these services. We need to increase them significantly. I believe that there are alternative ways in which we can do that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Laming: I second the motion.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The original question was that the motion be agreed. To this the member for Leichhardt has moved an amendment. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

Original question, as amended, agreed to.