Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (11:26): I thank the member for Werriwa for moving this motion this morning that marks international diabetes day on 14 November. It’s no surprise to members of this House that I and the member for Moreton are the co-chairs of the ‘parliamentary enemies of diabetes’. I’ve got to say that in the three or four years that I’ve been in that job I have been very pleased with the government’s response across that period. I think we’ve had a number of wins. I would like to thank in particular the health minister, Greg Hunt, who has been a great friend of families of diabetics right around Australia.
It’s worth noting though that around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, and it’s a figure that is set to increase to 3½ million over the next two decades. There are up to 500,000 Australians with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. There are two main strains of diabetes. For type 1 the government has made significant investment in research through clinical trials. I’m very pleased with that investment. I hope that in my lifetime we will see a cure or a permanent treatment for type 1 diabetes. I’m a little more pessimistic about type 2 diabetes. The member for Macarthur just raised the rampant levels of type 2 diabetes that are sweeping not just across Australia and the developed world but across the world. It’s one of the great silent killers. I often say when I’m speaking about diabetes that it is the leading cause of blindness, the leading cause of coronary heart disease and the leading cause of amputation. It’s a good thing not to have if you can organise your life that way.
With type 1 diabetes we understand that it’s a bit of a roll of the dice. We’re not dead sure what triggers it and why some people get it and others do not. With type 2 there are no ironclad laws either, but we do know that, like the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, there is a very strong relationship between lifestyle choices and type 2 diabetes. So, while it’s not bullet-proof, there is a definite link there. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes have a real opportunity to take control of a lot of elements in their life and do something about it, like improve their diet, improve their exercise, make sure that they take their medication, make sure that they get their checks, and listen to all the advice that is given to them. One thing that drives me nuts is when some of my friends say something like, ‘I’ve just got little bit of sugar.’ I say, ‘Mate, you haven’t got a little bit of sugar; what you’ve got is diabetes, and you need to take it seriously and do something about it.’
The motion specifically mentions the NDSS. It has been around now for 30 years and has been built on. In later times we have been able to add to it the constant glucose monitors—the FreeStyle Libre and those kinds of devices—to help people.
I told a story in this place a little while ago—I was approached by a young family in Port Pirie. They had a six-week-old daughter who had been diagnosed with diabetes as a result of other things like gestational diabetes. She desperately needed constant glucose monitoring. One was provided by the system, but it was short term. I went to Minister Greg Hunt and said, ‘This is intolerable.’ He said, ‘Leave it to me.’ Within a month, we added gestational diabetes in that range of pregnancy to the list of those people who are eligible for constant glucose monitors. He said, ‘This is one of the best things about being a minister: when someone brings a specific problem to you and it’s as clear as water that you should be able to fix it, you can fix it.’ That’s a good outcome not just for that particular family but for all those others who are in the same boat.
The last time I saw a comparative report of electorates, I’m sad to report that my electorate of Grey was the winner: we have the highest number of diabetics in Australia, and that’s one thing I do not want to win. I’ll keep spreading the word, telling people they need to get medical advice, make sure they get tested and make sure they actually make those lifestyle changes that can make a difference. Let’s keep doing the job and see if we can get rid of diabetes.