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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14194


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (12:03): It is with great pleasure that I rise to support the motion before the House today. The Global Fund is the world's largest financier of anti-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs in the world. The numbers are quite extraordinary. The Global Fund is currently helping to fund treatment for 8.1 million HIV infected people with antiretroviral therapies. It has tested and treated over 13 million people for tuberculosis, and distributed almost 550 million insecticide treated nets to prevent the spread of malaria. Altogether, the Global Fund partnership has saved over 17 million lives. It is an organisation that contributes more than $4 billion to fight the spread of these diseases each year. The Global Fund is responsible for more than 20 per cent of total international funding for HIV, half the international funding for malaria prevention and over three-quarters of funding for tuberculosis. It relies on a mixture of both public and private funding. From 2002 to 2016, a total of 56 countries have pledged $42 billion to the fund. The United States is by far the largest contributor, pledging over $10 billion during that time, while Australia sits just outside the top 10, so far pledging just under $400 million.

In December 2013, the newly elected coalition government, to cut expenditure, looked to Australia's contribution to the Global Fund, and pledged $175 million less than what was expected. It is a significant drop for an organisation that is having such a positive impact on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria, particularly in our own region. It was a sign of things to come from the government and the foreign minister, who has presided over unprecedented cuts to Australia's foreign aid budget.

At the time, World Vision CEO Tim Costello said:

… to defeat tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, which literally saves lives, is in our interests because we know that drug resistant tuberculosis is jumping from Papua New Guinea to northern Queensland.

Indeed, the traffic of people between PNG and Northern Queensland is an everyday fact of life in the region. Mr Costello went on to say:

So it's a wise investment because it saves lives of others and it helps protect Australians.

Australia has played a major role in promoting and advocating for immunisations, not just in our region but throughout the world. Earlier this year I travelled to Papua New Guinea with Save the Children to see Australian aid in action. PNG has been particularly hard hit by HIV. In 2008 PNG accounted for 99 per cent of new diagnoses of HIV in the Pacific. We were truly facing an epidemic of extraordinary proportions at that time. A UN report found that the primary reasons for HIV infection were gender inequality, gender-based violence—as the previous speaker aptly highlighted—the impact of alcohol and drugs on sexual behaviour and the commercial sex trade.

An extraordinary amount of work has been done in the last decade since that time to curb the spread of HIV in PNG, and it is truly one of the success stories of Australian aid. It is something that we can all take great pride in. Approximately 85 per cent of people who need antiretroviral medication have access to it—a particularly high percentage for the region. Much of this is due to international aid, of which Australia is PNG's largest donor. Our aid has led to tangible benefits. Last year alone, Australian aid supported the distribution of more than 3.7 million condoms. We also funded HIV testing for over 78,000 people, around 40 per cent of all testing nationally. This testing is a critical part of the equation. When World AIDS Day, which we celebrate this week, was first commemorated in 1988, a diagnosis of HIV was really a death sentence. Today, a diagnosis of HIV is a diagnosis of a chronic disease. So long as it is tested and caught early, antiretrovirals can be used to prevent the onset of AIDS.

Australian aid has been pivotal in ensuring that antiretroviral medication is made available for more pregnant women who are HIV positive. Outbreaks of malaria continue to decline under the national malaria program, and implementation of the PNG, Australia and China trilateral malaria cooperation program, which is due to begin in 2016, will hopefully see malaria continue to decline. Australia has been working hard to establish diagnosis and treatment facilities for both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB in the country.

Despite these clear and tangible benefits of Australian aid, this government has taken a scalpel to its budget, cutting it by $11.3 billion. On the eve of World AIDS Day, I implore the government to look at the fantastic work being done as a result of Australian aid and through partnerships with organizations like the Global Fund. Mid-next year is the Global Fund's replenishment period for the period ranging from 2017 to 2019. I urge the government and all civil society groups in Australia to look at the work that has been achieved in our region and throughout the world and to pledge funding that is relative to our wealth as a nation and our capacity to assist those in our region.