House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business

Polio Eradication

12:56 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage) Share this | Hansard source

It was a pleasure to visit your own electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker McClelland, last Friday in the company of Nick Varvaris, the Liberal candidate and the Mayor of Kogarah. I believe, if given a chance, he would make an excellent and worthy successor to you.

This particular motion concerns the issue of polio both globally and within Australia. In Australia I have been very close to the polio community. The driving force behind that was Fran Henke, a former journalist who lives in my electorate. She lives in Hastings. She was a polio sufferer as a child with significant lifelong challenges as a consequence. It was Fran who introduced me to the world of post-polio sufferers and the fact that there are an estimated 400,000 polio survivors in Australia and millions around the world. They have not just the direct legacy of polio but of post-polio onset. That is in itself a condition in need of recognition. There has been some worthy work from governments of both persuasions. However, there remains a gap in health system in terms of specific and direct recognition of post-polio syndrome. It is something to which I have committed on a bipartisan basis with people from both sides of the House.

There is a strong and consistent push for bipartisanship, which the member for Moreton referred to previously. I think that is a fundamental approach with post-polio syndrome. There are 400,000 polio survivors or those who have post-polio syndrome in Australia. In particular, the post-polio syndrome side needs greater recognition. It is my belief that we need to have a full and independent inquiry into the scope and extent of the syndrome as well as the needs of sufferers of post-polio syndrome, and the steps we can and should take going forward as parliament, not as a government of one persuasion or another, but as a parliament to deal with these issues. That includes how we deal with post-polio syndrome within the National Disability Insurance Scheme framework—noting that the vast majority of sufferers would already be or will soon be over 65 years of age.

We may recognise their condition but they may still fall through the gaps. That means we need to have a specific action plan for post-polio sufferers. People such as John Tierney, Mary-ann Liethof and others involved should be commended for their work, but our commitment is to practical action to assist them going forward.

My specific contribution is to call for and propose the inquiry into post-polio syndrome, its extent, its impact and the steps forward which we can take if not in this parliament then in the next parliament.

On a broader basis around the world, whilst we have made extraordinary steps in eradicating the unbelievably damaging and cruel condition and illness that is polio, there is more work to be done. There is more work in dealing with the sufferers who have had to, in many cases, deal with lifelong disability and extreme pain. They have had to do so where there is little support in parts of the world of extreme poverty or low socioeconomic circumstances. In that respect, I commend wholeheartedly the works of groups such as Rotary, which have made one of their global commitments to address the eradication of poverty. I also want to acknowledge the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is rightly working towards the total global eradication of polio. There is more to be done on that front, although it remains extant in only three countries, to the best of my knowledge. It can easily bubble up, so we have to work towards complete eradication and then the period of three years where there is no further notification. The Australian government rightly has a role to play. If you think of things where our foreign aid is most effectively used, eradication of fundamental diseases must surely be right at the top.


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