Thursday, 27 June 2013
Questions without Notice
Papua New Guinea: Tuberculosis, International Development Assistance
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Can the minister update the Senate on Australia's approach to assisting the government of Papua New Guinea address tuberculosis in Western Province?
Australia's efforts to help the government of PNG address tuberculosis help treat people in their communities, in their homes in Western Province. This approach is based on the World Health Organisation's Stop TB strategy and has proved most successful. It is critical in preventing multi-drug-resistant TB developing and spreading.
But there has, I am sad to report to the Senate, been a smear campaign targeting Australia's impressive efforts to address this issue in a country that, on average, has 14,000 new TB cases diagnosed per year. It is an issue that has been politicised, I am sad to relate, by the member for Leichhardt. He said Australia's life-saving assistance, this fine work helping PNG and Western Province, has been 'grossly mismanaged by bureaucrats'. His claims have been criticised as derogatory and negative by, among others, Dr Smith Pinai of Daru General Hospital in a letter to the Australian High Commission in June last year. The opinion of the member for Leichhardt flies in the face of professional medical assessments made by the World Health Organisation, which in November 2012 in its major document on TB monitoring found there had been 'clear progress in TB prevention and control in South Fly' since its last review.
Associate Professor Emma McBryde, the Head of Epidemiology at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service at Royal Melbourne Hospital, concluded in her report on this subject that the current approach, including treating Papua New Guineans in their own communities, is the right approach. Even the Queensland government itself, the coalition's poster child, has endorsed the approach. In a statement from Queensland's Premier, Mr Campbell Newman, and its health minister, Mr Lawrence Springborg, in a press release on 15 May, they stated that by providing the best treatment— (Time expired)
Yes, I can. Our approach with the assistance is confirmed by that recent endorsement by the Premier of Queensland and the health minister of Queensland, Mr Campbell Newman and Mr Lawrence Springborg, respectively, who in a joint statement on 15 May said:
By providing the best treatment in the home communities, the outcomes will improve—
it’s important to build on the effective TB treatment regime that is already established at Daru.
That is their endorsement of an approach that has seen the refurbishment of an interim TB isolation ward, the construction of a new TB isolation ward, to be opened next month, the provision of specialist TB staff, the training of 46 workers and volunteers—this is effective Australian work helping our friends in PNG—the funding for laboratory diagnosis and drug sensitivity testing in Queensland, options in funding to redevelop Daru Hospital, rehabilitation of the health centre— (Time expired)
Indeed I can, and I am happy for the opportunity. However, to complete the answer on TB help: since May 2012, the sea ambulance we provided the province has made 27 trips along the South Fly coast to deliver TB and other medical services to remote villages. That is all in the context of the great work we are doing in partnership with PNG to improve health services. In 2012 alone we helped to vaccinate more than half a million children against measles and polio and more than 1.2 million women against tetanus. We trained 187 health workers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, in PNG and supported 20,000 supervised births. Our assistance this year will reach $105 million. That is our assistance to the health sector of PNG. There will be medical supplies to 2,700 health facilities across the country among other things. (Time expired)