Adjournment - Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:19): I recently received from Professor Louis Schofield, Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, the 2016 annual report of that organisation. Based in the tropics of northern Australia, AITHM was founded in 2013-14 with the aspiration to become a leading institute with a focus on transnational tropical health and medicine research, preserving Australia's health security and enhancing health outcomes for people living in the tropics at home and abroad. The aspiration of the institute was to lead tropical health and medicine, both at home and away, and this has become a tangible reality in the past couple of years.

I'm very proud of the fact that it was coalition governments who funded this particular institute. I well remember, in the couple of weeks before the 2010 election, being given approval from campaign headquarters to commit $40 million to this institute. It became a commitment of the coalition for the 2010 election, which, unfortunately, the coalition didn't win. But it was again a commitment of the coalition prior to the 2013 federal election, which, as history shows, the coalition did win handsomely. In the meantime, the then Queensland government, Campbell Newman's Liberal National Party government, had committed an equal sum of money, some $40 million, to the institute, as had been requested by the proponents. But I well remember sitting with Professor Ian Wronski from James Cook University a couple of weeks before the 2010 election writing the policy that would eventually lead to the establishment of this wonderful institution for not only tropical Australia but the tropical world.

I'm quoting here from their annual report: 'One of the highlights of the 2016 year was the opening of the new Townsville PC2 and PC3 facility in October by Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald'—that's me—'and the Queensland Premier, Ms Palaszczuk.' The report says they were 'also delighted to host Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham and the Hon. Warren Entsch MP in Cairns later to mark formally the commencement of construction of AITHM's Cairns research facility that will bolster Australia's research training abilities in virology, mosquito vectors, disease and transmission control, as well as the development of new treatments and vaccines for tropical disease. Key to building capacity and health security for our northern borders, AITHM commenced construction of a research and training facility on Thursday Island, a critical piece of infrastructure for northern Australia.'

The highly qualified research leaders at the institute made significant progress in research to protect health security and improve health outcomes both at home and away. A highlight of the year was, as I mentioned, the opening of those facilities in Townsville and Cairns. As the director said in a letter, this capacity broadens the scope of AITHM to undertake additional health and medical research to further the vital work currently underway. This institute, based an James Cook University, is a wonderful institute. It is a wonderful addition to measures relating to prevention of and dealing with health issues in the tropics, both in Australia and in our near neighbours in the tropical zone. Congratulations to all involved in the institute—the staff, the management and the directors. You do a wonderful job. My very best regards.

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