Distinguished guests from the International Federation, representatives from Diabetes Australia and my parliamentary colleagues, in particular Richard Marles Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Pacific Affairs.
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to show my support on behalf of the Coalition for the Western Pacific Region Diabetes Declaration Action Plan for 2012-2015. For over three decades Diabetes Australia has been raising awareness, supporting further research into the causes of diabetes, being a voice for those who are suffering from it and calling on the rest of our country to be aware of the consequences of this debilitating disease and holding out hope for the 1.5 to 1.8 million Australians who are hoping for a cure for diabetes.
You will forgive me if, as a Western Australian, I pick out three people in this room, who happen to be West Australians, who’ve done an extraordinary job of raising awareness of diabetes amongst the parliamentarians who spend a lot of time here in Canberra and yet have time to focus on issues beyond the day to day.
First my friend and colleague Judi Moylen, who was the founder and immediate past chair of the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group. Judi has been a powerful tireless advocate for diabetes research, support for better treatment, for management, she has been a strong voice in this parliament.
Mal Washer, another colleague from Western Australia, happens to be a medical practitioner and bought his perspective to the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group and now my good mate Ken Wyatt, also a Western Australian, who takes over from Judi as the chair of the support group. The three of them represent a very powerful recognition within the Parliament, on a bipartisan basis, that diabetes in Australia and elsewhere is a significant and debilitating issue for countries around the globe.
Just to show that I’m not too parochial I’ll also recognise former Senator Guy Barnett who is the inaugural Australian Ambassador for Diabetes and in that role Guy has been speaking with authority, with passion about diabetes and he’s already got everyone to write in their diaries in December, the end of this year, the World Conference on Diabetes and I know he’ll continue to champion the cause.
It’s timely that we meet to have this launch to focus on diabetes in the Western Pacific. Here in Australia we know, for we have the statistics, that some 275 people, as Greg said, are diagnosed with diabetes every day. Work that out, that’s over 100,000 people each year. That is enough to fill the MCG Richard (we’re both footy fans) on Grand Final Day, each and every year. It’s a remarkable statistic, a frightening statistic and it’s estimated that state and federal governments spend about $6b each year on diabetes.
Worldwide something like 350 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, up to that figure. About 80 per cent of them live in developing or low to middle income countries and about 36 per cent of that number are in our neighbourhood, in the Western Pacific. Richard very well articulated the conditions that we see in the Western Pacific and in our region. As a country of this area we have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure that the people of the Western Pacific and elsewhere are able to battle the ravages of this disease.
I’m pleased that AUSAid is focussing some of its attention on education, on treatment but there’s more that we can do and I know Judi Moylen has been passionately advocating a greater direction of the aid budget to this issue in the Western Pacific and surrounding areas. I agree that that is an expenditure that the Australian taxpayer would welcome because if the people in the Western Pacific can be healthy and prosperous, so too can the broader region and I commend the work that’s been done but urge that more can and should be done.
Of course for some forms of diabetes, lifestyle is such a significant factor and we do have to take personal responsibility. Governments can provide framework, governments can provide funding, we can have action plans but so often it comes down to taking responsibility for your health, for your lifestyle.
But we can all be role models and had Bob Carr been here I was going to have a little dig at him about his tweets where he’s down on the beach doing his pilates in the mornings. There’s a role model for you! Richard Marles himself has been on a fitness campaign and has lost a kilo or two, again a role model.
But I don’t think anybody could beat Tony Abbott who has been in any sense, an extraordinary role model particularly for young and not so young men when he undertakes Ironmen contests, maybe that’s going too far for some of us, but nevertheless his daily regime is something to behold. While I try and fit in a 30 minute jog every day it pales into insignificance when you see the regime of some of our colleagues.
Lifestyle, fitness, healthy food is all part of the mix, so is education for young people, particularly people in the Western Pacific, the focus of our launch today, is absolutely vital.
So in commending the launch of this action plan may I remind us all there is no time for complacency. This action plan must be implemented now.