THE campaign for action to deal with endemic tuberculosis in PNG’s Western Province has had a major win today, with a Private Member’s Motion put up by Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch passing unopposed through the Parliament.
“This is an absolutely incredible result,” Mr Entsch said today. “After two years of fighting to get this government to recognise what is actually happening in the region, they have finally admitted that there is a crisis.”
Despite the government delaying the vote for several months, the Motion was passed ‘on the voices’ with no amendments. “The government knew they didn’t have the support of the cross benches so they essentially gave up on it,” Mr Entsch said.
“We now have to ask some very serious questions such as, when is the government going to re-open the Saibai and Boigu clinics? When will the review of AusAID’s South Fly District TB Management Program take place? And when is the government going to start talking to the South Fly leaders and the PNG government?
“Timing is critical these are matters of life and death, and further delays will cost lives.”
Mr Entsch congratulated Sheriden Morris and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) for their “outstanding advocacy” in supporting his endeavours to get this issue brought before the parliament, along with the Chair of the Treaty Village Association, Mr Sisa Kimia, and the elected members who have also worked tirelessly for this cause.
Mr Entsch said he will now write directly to Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, seeking answers as to the proposed timeline from this point.
“Now that these actions have been committed to in the parliament, my greatest concern is that this government will do the same as they did with the sea walls motion, where they walked away from the commitments they had made,” he said.
“I refuse to let that happen.”
Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the vote in support of the Private Member’s Motion and called on the government to commit to a timeline for restoration of these vital services that were cut by the Labor government.
“There are serious implications for PNG and North Queensland from the closure of those clinics and the government has not given an adequate explanation for this decision,” she said.
“This vote in the parliament is another step in the long campaign to have those services restored, in the interests of both PNG and Australia.”