In speaking to this motion I'd like to focus on tuberculosis, which is very much a disease of poverty. As a director of the Global TB Caucus and the Australian convenor for the Global HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis Caucus, I'm also the co-chair of the Asia Pacific TB Caucus and Australian TB Caucus. Australia's TB Caucus, a cross-party group of 20 parliamentarians, is focused on securing support and expertise to help end tuberculosis as a global epidemic. I would like to acknowledge my Australian caucus co-chair, the Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite.
Tuberculosis is the world's deadliest communicable disease, killing 1.8 million people every year and making another 10.4 million people sick. TB may be under control in Australia, but the situation remains very grim in neighbouring countries. The Asia-Pacific region bears more than 60 per cent of the global burden of tuberculosis. Our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis infection in the world, with 30,000 people newly infected every year, and the island of Daru in the Western Province, which is not far from Cape York in my electorate, has one of the highest rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the world. There were 19,000 new cases of MDR-TB diagnosed in PNG in 2015. Over the next 35 years, it's predicted that MDR-TB could claim an extra 75 million lives globally, at an economic cost of US$16.7 trillion. These figures are alarming, and the impact on Australia would be absolutely devastating.
Tuberculosis is a very real national security threat to our country, and Australia continues to work with PNG to create better tuberculosis identification and treatment. It also helps to reduce the number of Papua New Guineans travelling to Australia for treatment. There are 30,000 to 50,000 border crossings per year between PNG and the Torres Strait, and there have been a series of contagious disease outbreaks, including MDR-TB. Communities at greatest risk are of course in the Torres Strait, Cape York and further south to my home town of Cairns.
The Cairns based Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, with the support of the Australian government, is continuing to work on the ground in the treaty villages of Western Province to bolster local support for sustainable TB control infrastructure. The RRRC manages the Building Resilience in Treaty Villages project, which aims to establish a platform that will deliver appropriate health services to all PNG communities and give ownership of the tuberculosis solution to locals. The project involves the recruitment and training of multiskilled community rangers to work in construction, sanitation, first aid and leadership.
Australia's initial investment of $1.8 million in 2014 saw 52 community rangers, including 12 women, trained up in four treaty villages. This resulted in the rangers using their skills to install storage for more than 1.5 million litres of clean fresh water, to build eight new reinforced capped and sealed groundwater wells, to provide emergency medical assistance on more than 100 occasions, including lifesaving first aid, transportation and childbirth support, and to complete a top-down refurbishment of Mabaduan village's hospital outpost. In 2016-17 the project was extended, with an extra $400,000 from the Australian government. Subject to successful completion, we will support its phasing up to reach all 13 treaty villages by 2019-20 and induct another 58 rangers, of whom 18 will be women, giving us a total of 122 rangers.
In a few days I will be travelling to New York to represent Australia as part of the 193 member state General Assembly of the United Nations. While there I will continue to lobby on behalf of the Global Tuberculosis Caucus for a reprioritisation of TB within the global fund and seek a commitment for a significant increase in funding for research into a TB vaccine. I will also be highlighting the work of the national Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University in Cairns, where Professor Louis Schofield, Professor Emma McBryde and Dr Andreas Kupz have recently secured funding to conduct work on developing a TB vaccine and health security in the western Pacific. Thanks to Australian and international investments in research and development, we've come a long way in developing simpler diagnostics and we are well progressed in trialling shorter oral treatments, but there is still much work to be done in developing a new vaccine.
In the time I have left I would like to put on the record my appreciation of the work of the member for Flynn. He mentioned Australian aid. When he was in Vietnam he secured mosquito insecticide nets for a village. He actually put his hand in his pocket, wrote a cheque and bought a net for every single villager during that visit. That made a huge difference to that entire village, and I have got no doubt at all that it will save a lot of lives. I want to publicly acknowledge the member for Flynn for his amazing generosity and compassion.
I strongly support this motion.