I would like to respond, particularly acknowledging 24 March as being World Tuberculosis Day. I, like many other Australians, believed that tuberculosis was consigned to the history books along with sanatoriums and iron lungs. My mum was treated for tuberculosis in 1963 and spent a year in the thoracic ward in Cairns. It had a massive impact on our family. She was separated from my siblings, and family members had to care for us. I was the eldest and old enough to be able to visit my mum and spend some time with her, but my three younger siblings were too young to do so, so they were not able to see my mother for a year, until after she was released.
I thought that that problem had been solved and that tuberculosis was no longer an issue, but tonight I rise to raise awareness about the reality of tuberculosis in our communities today and in those of our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2014, 9.6 million people were newly infected with tuberculosis. 58 per cent of those people were in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific region. In these same regions, in 2014, 625,000 people died from tuberculosis-more than 40 per cent of global deaths. Also in 2014, an estimated 480,000 people contracted multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis.
To put a local face on the statistics, in a very recent case, only a week ago I became aware that Cairns's Business Woman of the Year and head of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, who has done extensive work in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, had been diagnosed with latent MDR-TB. That is so current and so close to our community. We have lost several in my electorate in recent times, including a mother and daughter with tuberculosis from one of the outer Torres Strait islands. The grand-daughter is now being treated. It is a major issue, and this is why I am passionate about ending tuberculosis in our region.
I was pleased today to officially launch the Australian TB Caucus, along with my friend and colleague Matt Thistlethwaite. There were 15 cross-party members that originally put our names to the Barcelona Declaration, the document that was signed by more than 1,000 political representatives from 100 countries, but I am pleased to say that as a result of today's event we now have 100 representatives here in Australia that have signed that declaration. So 10 per cent of that 1,000 have been signed up here in Australia. Signatories commit to supporting R&D in new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines and demanding that every patient, regardless of age, sex, nationality or socioeconomic status, be able to access quick diagnosis and high-quality treatment.
I urge every member and senator in this place to sign the Barcelona Declaration. These activities gather momentum for caucuses around the world. In the past 12 months, I have welcomed the opportunities through RESULTS and the caucus to raise awareness about TB and to lobby for improved detection rates, treatment and prevention.
In finishing, I was in South Africa late last year, and I met with a Dr Furin, who was with Doctors Without Borders. She said to me that she had visited Daru Island in October 2015. In her words:
“I have been working with TB for over 20 years. I have worked in prisons in Russia, in Siberia, and many other high-burden countries and in the most difficult of circumstances therefore nothing generally shocks me.
“However, I was absolutely shocked and felt despair from what I saw in Daru, which was far worse than what I have ever experienced and the TB burden is horrific. Having said that, what is most despairing is the fact that with the right application this situation can be quite easily addressed.”
It is time that we acted on this, and I certainly call on the support of this parliament to make sure that we take those actions to address this very, very serious problem.