Keeping up the fight - The Global Fund

Tonight I spoke in the Parliament about the vital role and work of the Global Fund in keeping up the fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

16 July 2014

I rise to speak about the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the third time since entering this parliament. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was established at the start of the 21st century. It is one of the most efficient international aid organisations. It has been estimated that, for every $4,000 it spends, the global fund saves a life. Internationally, the global fund accounts for two-thirds of spending on tuberculosis and malaria and a fifth of all public spending on HIV. The global fund works, through a market driven approach, to bring down the price of drugs. The prices of first-line antiretrovirals and malaria treatments for children have fallen substantially thanks to the work of the global fund.

The global fund is literally bed-netting Africa, ensuring that young African children are no longer at risk of malaria when they go to bed at night. It is distributing nearly a billion condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and ensuring that a majority of pregnant women now receive antiretrovirals to prevent the transmission of HIV to newborn babies. Almost no women in the developing world were receiving such antiretrovirals at the turn of the 21st century. The fund is an independent office of the Inspector-General, ensuring that it is able to tackle corruption as it rears its ugly head.

Over the last ten years, Australia has contributed $400 million to the fund overall. In return, the Asia-Pacific region has received $4 billion in investments from the global fund. In the last two years alone the number of patients treated by antiretrovirals by the global fund has doubled. Six million sufferers had been treated as at the end of 2013.

RESULTS—an NGO led by Mark Rice, Murray Proctor and their team—have been advocating for Australia to provide an increased contribution to the Global Fund. With the government's aid cuts and backflip on their commitment to spend 50c in every $100 on the world's poorest, it might be a challenge for the government to contribute to the Global Fund. However, I urge the government to think about a contribution to the Global Fund, because the philosophy under which the Global Fund operates ought to rise above politics.

The Global Fund's market-driven approach is one which ought to appeal to my coalition friends. So too should the transformation that the Global Fund has carried out over the course of 2012. The goal of that transformation was to increase efficiency to improve conditions for people suffering, or at risk of suffering, from those three diseases. The Global Fund has aimed to invest more strategically and conduct their programs more sustainably. They have realigned their staff focus in the organisation, specifically increasing staff working on strategic grant management. The vigour of the Global Fund in building on its successes of the last decade is a mark of how seriously it takes the task of assisting the world's poor. The Global Fund's successes have backed up its history as a capable distributor of taxpayer's money to those who need it most.

As a significant developed nation, and one of the largest countries in the Asia-Pacific region, we cannot simply say that we have no responsibility to assist the world's poorest. To say that because Australia carries debt it cannot do its bit to help the world's poorest belies the fact that Australia has one of the lowest debt-to-income ratios of any developed country. If it is the case that Australia has to become stingy in the face of a debt burden as relatively low as ours, then what does that say for the rest of the developed world? Should the developed world turn our back on the poorest, cease providing the drugs that ensure that a newborn baby does not contract HIV, cease providing the bed nets that ensure that children can go to bed at night and not wake up in the morning with malaria and cease providing the tuberculosis treatments which are so vital in countries like Papua New Guinea, when we are already seeing the threat of tuberculosis across the Torres Strait?

We have a responsibility, as neighbours and fellow human beings, to tackle these three crippling diseases. To ignore the suffering of our neighbours is to forget the full saying: 'Charity begins at home but does not end there.' I urge the government to consider a significant contribution to the Global Fund, to assist the world's poorest.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.