LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has strongly rejected comments by Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr in the Senate last week that he is responsible for a “smear campaign” targeting Australia’s efforts to help the government of PNG address TB issues.
“Ministers Carr and Plibersek need to get out of their air-conditioned offices and start talking to the people who are affected, rather than perpetuating the lies and deception that is being put up by the bureaucrats,” Mr Entsch said.
“It is blatantly untrue that the sea ambulance has made 27 trips along the South Fly coast – people in the villages tell me that the boat has only gone to Sigabadu four times since it was commissioned. It has never once gone to Bula, the furthermost village near the West Papuan border, or Tais or Jarai.
“Sen. Carr is totally misrepresenting the boat’s effectiveness and it shows that the same inaccurate information is being repeated throughout the bureaucracy.”
The $460,000 ‘Medics Queen’ vessel provided by AusAID
Mr Entsch said the failure to engage village leaders has resulted in serious issues on the ground that have not been taken into consideration by the Australian Government or reported by AusAID.
“These include the significant cultural constraints for people from the western side of the Treaty Villages, who do not speak the same language as those from the eastern side and Daru. It is particularly dangerous for young women to travel into this area, so they won’t present at the hospital.
“It’s very difficult to get services to the Treaty Villages because of logistical challenges including communications, fuel, and boat access, along with the fact that drugs intended for distributing are often diverted due to corruption and profiteering.
“There is little reliable data and government data is geographically limited and at times, optimistic.
“None of these issues have been taken into account and it’s this short-sightedness that has already cost lives, and will continue to cost lives.”
Mr Entsch also said that when he read the Senate Hansard he was surprised to see Sen. Carr refer to a 15 May media release citing Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.
“Of course we all agree with Minister Springborg’s comment that the best treatment should be carried out in the home communities and that is exactly what I have been advocating for.
“But the full context of the release was that Queensland spends $14 million a year treating PNG nationals, yet the Australian Government only reimburses about $4 million.
“It is this massive discrepancy which has forced the State Government to think outside the box, offering to assist with training and mentoring of Daru hospital staff, and I commend them for it.”