The Australian TB Caucus (ATBC) brings together Members of the House of Representatives and Senators with a keen interest in the issue of tuberculosis (TB) and how Australia can best secure support and expertise to contribute to the global eradication of the disease. The Group will focus primarily on the Asia Pacific region and increasing Parliamentary awareness about TB and it
The group holds meetings to brief members on the most up-to-date issues surrounding tuberculosis and opportunities for action and engagement. In 2017 the Caucus hosted visits from Eric Goosby, Unite Nations Special Envoy on Tuberculosis and The Hon Nick Herbert, Chair of the Global TB Caucus.
The ATBC Secretariat is hosted by RESULTS International (Australia) and is supported by a network of Australian and international TB experts and advocacy partners from the Australasian TB Forum.
Co-Chairs of the Australian TB Caucus
The Hon. Mr. Warren Entsch MP
TB is a disease that most people thought was in the past and was isolated to small pockets of some impoverished countries. The reality is TB is the largest infectious disease killer in the world. It killed more than 1.7 million people last year – more than HIV, Malaria and HIV combined.
It is the only infectious disease transmitted by air and with 60 percent of the world TB burden in the Asia-Pacific region, with PNG and Indonesia baring a lot of that burden. Already, we are seeing TB making its presence into the Torres Strait and Cairns. The stark reality is that with modern travel, TB can be transmitted anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. There has never been a communicable disease that has not been cured without a vaccine. The current TB vaccine, developed in 1921, is totally ineffective to the new strains of TB.
This disease can be cured but a lot more work needs to be done.
The Hon. Mr. Matt Thistlethwaite MP
Over 60 percent of the world’s TB cases are in the Asia Pacific region, where six million people are falling ill each year.
Drug-resistant TB is now a public health crisis in neighbours such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
We need to do more and take a leadership role in our region to help protect healthcare workers like Dr Sauk from contracting the disease.
Current Members of the Australian TB Caucus
Mr John Alexander MP
The Australia TB Caucus is working to raise greater awareness around the need to eradicate this potentially serious infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs.
The Australian TB Caucus is dedicated to seeking this change through engagement and by raising its profile . We have some of the most advanced medical facilities here in Australia, and yet we have some of the worst cases of tuberculosis in countries right on our doorstep. We need to strengthen our resolve to eradicate TB.
Mr Chris Crewther MP
Despite achieving and maintaining one of the lowest rates of TB incidence in the world, it is important for Australia to support research and development into better tools to fight TB in Australia and abroad.
Growing immigration levels have seen a recent rise in new cases of TB from high burden countries. With the population predicted to rise by over 10 million people by 2056, it is important that future immigration policy can adequately detect and control TB in new arrivals and allow for ongoing monitoring.
Continuation of Australia’s high standard of diagnosis and treatment relies on current TB control infrastructure to be continued and improved including new diagnostics, treatment and vaccinations.
Mr. Trevor Evans MP
Australia is a sanctuary in more ways than one, considering the diseases causing tragic loss for people and societies much closer than many would think—a mere three-hour flight from my constituency in Brisbane.
Despite generally declining worldwide rates of infection and death due to TB, it remains a stubborn and deadly challenge, especially on our doorstep in the Asia-Pacific region. These days TB kills more people than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
Australia faces a moral and economic imperative to be a leader in our region when it comes to fighting this disease.
Dr Mike Freelander MP
Tuberculosis has been a scourge around the world for many generations.
We have been lulled into a false sense of security that TB has been eradicated in the developed world.
We now know that this is not the case, and there has been a recrudescence of TB, even in countries such as Australia.
We now have multi-drug resistant forms of TB on our doorstep.
It is vitally important that we recognise that TB still occurs. We need much better tools to fight TB, and it is very important that we focus our research on better ways to combat the scourge of TB.
Senator Claire Moore
Tuberculosis is not a disease found in the history books … it is a highly infectious and vicious killer.
Our own region owns over 60% of the global burden, and in our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, there are over 30,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Australia needs to be aware of the dangers and active in the research and development of the tools to combat the disease and provide safe and accessible medicines to support the many people suffering the debilitating symptoms.
For those able to access current treatments, it is a tough, extended process involving over 14,000 pills and painful injections … this is a real barrier to healing. Australia must engage in the world wide efforts to stop this disease. We have a great record in research and we can be part of the first UN High level meeting dedicated to TB.
The Sustainable Development Goals provide the framework for our involvement with ’Goal 3: Ensuring healthy lives and promotion of well-being’ and ‘Goal 1: End poverty’ highlighting the importance of our commitment with the overriding goal to leave no one behind.
Senator Louise Pratt
Ending Tuberculosis in the Indo-Pacific region is an imperative for Australia as a nation with the capacity to provide support and expertise to the cause of eradicating this terrible virus.
TB is still considered one of the principal ‘diseases of poverty’ as it is more commonly contracted in areas where people are in sub-optimal living conditions, do not have access to quality health care and have poor nutrition.
Australia as a wealthy, prosperous nation has a responsibility to help end inequality in health, poverty and indeed, TB diagnosis within our neighbouring nations across the Indo-Pacific region.
The Hon. Jane Prentice MP
One third of the world’s population is infected with this highly contagious disease. The Asia Pacific region has more than half of the global cases, and our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates in the Pacific.
Early prevention is paramount, with infectious sufferers, infecting up to 15 others each year, contributing to the pandemic nature of this preventable, treatable disease which is on our very doorstep.
The Australian Government recognises that discovery, development and the rapid uptake of new tools, interventions and strategies is the only way to achieve our goal of eradicating tuberculosis in our region.
Senator Lisa Singh
Some of the worst drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB) are affecting our closest neighbours in the Indo-Pacific, including Papua New Guinea. Increased aid funding from Australia to research and develop new treatments is urgently needed as current therapies are lengthy, toxic, expensive and only about 50% effective.
Because TB predominantly affects developing countries there is appears to be little financial incentive for the private sector to invest in R&D for new TB drugs.
As the largest aid donor in the Pacific region, Australia must work with our developing neighbours to help make up the funding shortfall and stop TB in its tracks.
Senator Dean Smith
Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide. The World Health Organisation reported that there were 1.8 million TB deaths in 2016 with the bulk of these deaths occurring in developing nations.
When we say ‘developing nations’, Australians automatically tend to think of the nations of Africa. But it is important to realise that this epidemic is one that is very much occurring in our own region. In 2016, the largest number of new TB cases occurred in Asia.
It is my hope that Australia’s ongoing efforts to provide support to nations in our region suffering through the epidemic will play a significant role in reducing the disease’s impact in the years immediately ahead.
Mr. Andrew Wilkie MP
It’s enormously important to address tuberculosis in the Asia-Pacific region, not least because it’s home to 58 per cent of the world’s TB cases.
Not only is the human toll of TB severe but the economic cost is significant as well because it hits hardest in the poorest countries and takes billions of dollars out of the global economy.
TB and other infectious diseases are a significant barrier to people moving out of extreme poverty, which is widespread in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia can play an important role in eradicating the disease by supporting research and partnerships like the Global Fund.