World tuberculosis day breakfast

  • Speech, check against delivery

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, traditional custodians of the land on which we gather, and other people and families with connections to the ACT region. I pay my respect to their elders past and present.

Can I start by thanking Results International (Australia) and your CEO, Negaya Chorley, for hosting this breakfast, and all of you for attending.

Can I also acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues here too, particularly Simon Birmingham who will also speak shortly.

This is the second year in a row I've been invited to speak at this event, so it's both a pleasure and an honour, and great to see the TB Caucus remaining active and visible.

I'd like to thank Kate Thwaites for your leadership of this Caucus—and also recognise the tireless work of another great colleague, Sharon Claydon, who has been such a champion for ending TB for so many years.

And I'd also like to acknowledge Warren Entsch, who's unable to be here today, for his longstanding leadership too.

What I said last year at this event remains true: ending TB needs bipartisanship.

When you set out to tackle a global problem, you need devoted champions in every place, at every level, if you're to succeed.

I'm proud that this Parliament is able to offer it in the form of Kate and Warren and the members of the Caucus.

Let me begin by noting that the World Health Organization reported in their most recent report in November of last year that there were 7.5 million newly diagnosed cases of TB worldwide in 2022.

That is the highest number since global monitoring began in 2005.

And while this statistic is likely to include a backlog of undiagnosed TB carriers from during the COVID years…

…the worrying thing is that the great progress the world had been making toward ending TB was interrupted.

It's estimated that there have been almost half a million additional deaths from TB in those three years from 2020 to 2022.

We need to get back on track.

We have the tools, treatments, and drugs needed to significantly ease the suffering people are experiencing around the world.

To potentially give them a dignified and long life, free from TB.

And getting back on track begins with getting a clear picture of what the needs are in every community, in every country.

That's one of the reasons why the Australian Government has prioritised support for TB prevalence surveys in our region.

Through Australia's international development program, we are currently supporting such a survey conducted by the World Health Organization in Cambodia, alongside several of our partners.

And I know you've probably heard me talk in the past about our partnership with the Timorese Government and the Menzies School of Health Research to conduct Timor-Leste's first national TB prevalence survey…

…where more than 15,000 people have been screened, and preliminary results confirm a high TB burden.

These surveys in our region confirm the scale of the problem is serious.

But look, I don't want your takeaway from my remarks today to be that the situation is dire.

There's also a lot of cause for optimism.

Because on the other side of the equation, every day, we're seeing the fruits of research and development programs coming online.

And we all have a role to play in translating scientific breakthroughs to solid outcomes.

All of us: whether you're working in an international organisation, a regional body, a government…

… the private sector, academia, the NGO sector…

…or, most importantly, working within a local community or on the frontlines as someone caring for patients.

We heard that message in October last year when the world gathered in New York for the second United Nations High Level Meeting on the Fight Against Tuberculosis.

There was a strong push to ensure we are driving research and innovation to end tuberculosis…

…and to ensure new treatments reach the greatest number of people in order to make the greatest possible impact.

That is a goal to which the Australian Government is fundamentally committed.

It gives me great pride to announce, today, that Australia will provide $17 million over five years to fund the research of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development – known as the TB Alliance.

The Government has been a funding partner to TB Alliance since 2013.

And over that time the TB Alliance has developed and registered a transformative new TB treatment regimen called 'BPal/M'.

The regimen is specifically designed for populations with drug resistant TB in low and middle income countries.

I'm told that the success rate is 90 per cent.

It is endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Seventy countries have started using BPal/M.

As part of the agreement with TB Alliance, a new Peer-to-Peer TB Knowledge Hub is being established in Manila to support BPal/M's rollout across Southeast Asia.

This new funding to TB Alliance also complements Australia's bilateral health programs, as well as our ongoing support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

For instance, in Papua New Guinea, TB Alliance will work with the PNG Government and the Burnet Institute to ensure safe access to this treatment.

This new program is under the Government's Partnership for a Healthy Region initiative, which supports partner countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia to build resilient and equitable health systems.

As a steadfast partner, Australia has a duty to support the health needs of our region.

Listening and responding to what the region tells us it needs.

Providing the tools to tackle diseases like TB.

Working in partnership to deliver real results.

And drawing on the best Australian and international expertise.

I frequently say that we are committed to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific…

…but we are committed to a healthy Indo-Pacific, with a future free of TB.

Thank you very much.

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