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Adjournment speech: International development assistance

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 8 Jul 2014

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (20:44): On another matter, the world's three major pandemics—AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria—cause an enormous amount of death and disability, generally striking those in the most productive years of their lives as well those who are the most vulnerable. For years the fatalistic view prevailed that nothing could be done to stem the tide, but in recent years scientific advances have led to highly effective interventions which have become affordable. Now these diseases can be treated and prevented on a massive scale; all that is needed is investment. That is why I will be moving a motion tomorrow to recognise the work of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is working to eventually eradicate deaths from these diseases, and to call on the Australian government to consider the next stage of replenishment of the global fund.

I recently met with representatives of the global fund, which supports countries in their fight against three of the world's most devastating diseases. As a partnership between governments, civil society and affected communities, the global fund channels billions of dollars each year to health professionals to treat and prevent AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in their countries. The global fund does not implement or manage programs on the ground, relying instead on local experts to select and administer the programs that save the most lives. It is a most impressive model. In the AIDS sector this model is an innovative approach, based on the principle of community ownership. Health professionals in each country clearly know best how to meet the health challenges their country faces, but they may need support and appropriate tools. Community ownership allows people to determine their own priorities and also makes sure they are responsible for ensuring the implementation of their country's programs. The fund does not preallocate funding to specific countries or diseases but instead responds to genuine demand.

Civil society is also at the heart of the global fund's work. Civil society organisations played a key role in the creation of the fund, helping to conceive the funding model that exists today. The global fund's financing is intended to be in addition to, not in replacement of, national health budgets. The fund and its partners have been campaigning for wealthy countries like Australia to contribute a portion of the program costs. This would help make funding available to those most in need and those who can make the most effective use of it. Those decisions take into account a country's ability to contribute. From 2004 to 2013, Australia contributed a total of $400 million to the global fund and in this period the global fund invested a total of $4 billion in the Asia-Pacific region. Clearly our government and the global fund are to be congratulated for this work.

Tomorrow I will be asking the Senate to note that an appropriate contribution to the global fund by the Australian government would be $125 million. This would take Australia's total contribution over three years to $325 million and ensure that Australia is playing a role in the global fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The Greens believe this would be an excellent investment, and the results achieved by the global fund speak for themselves. The motion to be moved will ask the government to consider the next stage of replenishment.

In 2000, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria together killed approximately six million people. The devastation to families, societies and economies caused by these three pandemics was considered a global emergency. We can all clearly imagine the personal hardship and tragedies. Little more than a decade later, the global fund and many other organisations are starting to have an impact on the three diseases. As at the end of 2013, more than six million people are receiving lifesaving antiretroviral therapy through fund supported programs—how impressive is that? Diagnosis and treatment for TB has reached 11.2 million people and 360 million insecticide-treated nets have been distributed to families to protect them from malaria. Thanks to these programs, and the efforts of all the partners, total mortality from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria has decreased by 40 per cent since 2000. I congratulate all who have been involved.

In all, the fund estimates it has saved the lives of more than 7.9 million people around the world. Australia has a role here and, I believe, a responsibility to recognise this work and consider the next stage of support we should offer.

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