House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business

Polio Eradication

1:06 pm

Photo of Paul NevillePaul Neville (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I compliment the member for Fremantle for the original genesis of this motion, and the members for Ryan and Shortland who have led the debate today. Let me say that anyone whose life has been touched by polio will never forget it. That occurred in my family when I was a young child when my sister got polio. Fortunately it was a reasonably mild attack and she was nursed at home. I still remember the boiling of the kitchen utensils, plates and things, which was a sterilisation method that had to be used if you nursed people at home.

I can remember our family doctor coming around one night and he was very distressed. My mother offered him a cup of tea and asked, 'What is wrong?' He said, 'After I leave here I'm going back to the hospital. I've got two children to save tonight, but only one iron lung left.' The iron lung, of course, was the way to enable children or people, who were paralysed from polio, to breathe. Of course, if you did not have an iron lung, you were in trouble, and most hospitals had a bank of these iron lungs. That is an example of how back it was in Warwick when I was a kid.

When I was at boarding school, our class—grade 9 as we call it today—was put into isolation because we had a couple of cases of polio in our class. The whole school was given injections of gamma globulin. It was not so much a vaccination but was more a preventative that gave you a chance to beat polio if it was around. I have very vivid memories of it. I can remember one of my teachers who had transferred from Victoria. It was so bad in Victoria at the height of the polio epidemic that the kids, in what you would call a 'dark joke', used to call the ambulances that came to pick the kids up 'the meat wagon'. It was a really bad time in Australia's history and we are blessed to be rid of the disease.

I would like to compliment Rotary. I have been a Rotarian for many years, and I am an honorary one at present. The Rotary PolioPlus initiative has been a marvellous program. They have taken on about 14 per cent of the world effort in eradicating polio. Most of the funding, of course, has come from governments through the United Nations' programs, but Rotary have provided 66 per cent of the private funding for polio eradication.

I well remember in this very building a former world president of Rotary—a Queenslander, in fact—a fellow called Glen Kinross. He came to the parliament and called all members of parliament who were Rotarians together and asked them assist him to get some more funding because, at that stage, he was trying to eliminate polio from the Pacific. John Howard came to the lunch and, if not totally successful, we were certainly partially successful in gaining that funding. Rotary must use this money for transportation, vaccine delivery, social mobilisation and the training of health workers. It has been a labour of love for 25 years and will, if all our efforts succeed, come to a total cost to those clubs of $1.2 billion.

It is a marvellous initiative. We worry about plants and animals, the flora and fauna, being diseased in this country, but we are sometimes very sanguine about the human condition. This is not something that we can be sanguine about. The fact that Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are still gravely at risk means that we must act. Of course, if we do not act, we know the figures—we know that we will be looking at 200,000 cases of polio a year, and that is something we cannot contemplate.


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