Thank you Maree, and good morning to everyone.
Can I start by also adding my acknowledgement of country.
Can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues, who are here today: Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Claire Moore; the co-chairs, the indefatigable Warren Entsch, and Matt Thistlewaite.
It is good that we are all gathered here today to mark World Tuberculosis Day 2017.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Australian TB Caucus in raising awareness on this important issue.
Living in such a clean, safe, healthy country as Australia, many people would be surprised to hear that tuberculosis is still a major issue worldwide.
For many people, when they hear the word tuberculosis, or its shorter acronym TB, they think back to Dickensian times, to the many poor and desperate children of Victorian England.
Collectively, we have forgotten that even here in sunny Australia, sanatoriums for TB patients once dotted our map.
We have been able to forget about the scourge of TB probably because we have long had one of the lowest infection rates for TB in the world.
It is a disease that we have beaten back, along with smallpox, and polio.
But the fact is, in 2017, more than a century after the identification of the TB bacterium by Robert Koch, tuberculosis remains a major killer worldwide.
Every year, more than ten million people contract the disease.
Worse, around 1.8 million people die from it.
The sad truth is that although TB is now preventable and curable, it still kills more people than Ebola, than HIV, than any other infectious disease.
And of course, as Maree said, it is particularly prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region.
Our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, just across the Torres Strait, counts about 28,000 new cases each year.
Can I acknowledge the work that Valda and all the other people do in Papua New Guinea.
For that reason, Australia has committed $60 million between 2011 and 2017 to support a comprehensive package of practical activities to improve TB control in PNG.
And this is producing some tangible results, Warren.
We have seen some improvements: the proportion of people staying on the treatment for the full six months at Daru General Hospital has increased from 40 per cent in 2011 to more than 97 per cent in 2016.
TB is also straining health systems in some of our smaller island neighbours, like Kiribati, which has the world's fifth largest incidence rate per capita.
Since 2006, we have contributed $4.2 million to assist the Government of Kiribati to improve TB detection and treatment, including 'active case finding' in hot-spot communities and maintaining the treatment success rate, plus helping construct and equip the Tuberculosis Control Centre and the Laboratory there.
A particularly worrying challenge is the emergence of the drug-resistant strains of TB.
And whether you are living in a developing country or a developed one, multi-drug-resistant strains of TB are extremely difficult and very expensive to treat.
The World Health Organisation estimates close to half a million cases of drug-resistant TB are occurring every year.
Only one in four cases, however, is actually diagnosed.
Even more worrying, only one in ten cases is successfully treated.
In saying that, I do not want to be alarmist.
Certainly, as far as Australia is concerned, the risks of transmission to and infection in Australia are low.
But it is very important that we continue to work with partners in our region to make sure it does not threaten the stability and security of other parts of the Indo-Pacific.
Australia has great health expertise in this country – and as a developed, prosperous economy in the region, we have an important role to play in helping others with this challenging area.
That is why we are establishing the Regional Health Security Initiative – an election commitment of $100 million over five years.
In addition to supporting countries like PNG and Kiribati, we also provide funds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the World Health Organisation.
Australia will provide $220 million for the Fifth Replenishment of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2017-2019 – and that is a ten per cent increase on our previous pledge.
In total, we will have contributed $820 million since 2004.
The Global Fund's grants have resulted in over 16.5 million people treated for TB, including over eight million people in the Indo-Pacific region, since its establishment in 2002.
In addition, we are investing $30 million to support cutting-edge research and development on TB and malaria via Product Development Partnerships.
These partnerships are drawing in investments which are bringing new drug resistant-TB treatments and diagnostic devices to market.
They have already demonstrated successes, including the first ever child-friendly TB treatments: very important – [it is] soluble and fruit-flavoured, I am told!
Australia is supporting the PNG Paediatric Society to conduct a pilot study using the paediatric TB medicine in Port Moresby General Hospital with a view to a national roll out.
This could help hundreds of thousands of children each year to take their medicine, complete their treatment, and make a full recovery.
These new treatments and tools, combined with strong health systems, are so essential to overcoming TB.
So can I thank you for coming here today.
Thank you for your commitment.
It is important that we keep working to raise the awareness, as both Matt and Warren have said, awareness is vitally important so that people do understand the devastating impacts of this disease, and we work together to find better and new ways to tackle it.
So, thank you very, very much for your kind attention.
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