Address to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, Parliamentary Morning Tea

  • Speech, E&OE

Thank you Helen and welcome to everybody, my Parliamentary colleagues, Ministerial colleagues, Parliamentary secretaries. I make particular mention of Senator Brett Mason, my Parliamentary Secretary, who does so much of our good work in the Australian Aid area, Catherine King - the shadow minister for health, Excellencies, and I also want to acknowledge my co-host Seth Berkley, Kerryn Phelps, Ian Olver. Friends all.

I am delighted to be here for this event to celebrate the work of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, and I want to acknowledge the extraordinary effort of former West Australian Senator Louise Pratt who was so instrumental in ensuring that this event would happen today. Unfortunately she's not here but I'm thinking of her.

Gavi saves lives. Every day. Everywhere. It brings low cost vaccines to more than 70 countries around the world. A simple idea, yet transformational. With its donor partners Gavi has achieved some extraordinary, simply amazing results – immunisation for 440 million children, the prevention of six million deaths from diseases including measles, polio, whooping cough and meningitis.

Gavi is currently rolling out the Australian developed cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil and it's sobering to note that 85 per cent of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing nations. That is where Gavi is focussing its work and many of those nations are in our region, the Indian Ocean, Asia-Pacific.

Vaccines lift people out of poverty caused by poor health. It has enormous dividends in terms of the economic and social outcomes.

Gavi's work assists individuals, families, communities, nations around the world and we are all acutely aware of the health crisis unfolding in West Africa where the Ebola virus is said to have infected around 10,000 people.

This has emerged in nations that are just not equipped through their health systems, or indeed their vaccine strategies, to cope with such an outbreak. That's why I'm pleased that Gavi is investigating using its expertise in vaccine financing and vaccine distribution to assist in the Ebola crisis.

There are two vaccines currently undergoing human trials, and there are others in development and I believe, I firmly believe, that Gavi is well placed to scale-up access as soon as one of these vaccines is proven safe and effective, because Gavi can get a new vaccine to many people, very quickly and at an affordable price.

This is why I am announcing today that the Australian Government will invest a further $50 million for Gavi's work this year.

This $50 million is in addition to the $200 million invested in Gavi over four financial years since 2011. Our commitment, Australia's commitment to Gavi, is now $250 million over five years.

Australia has been a partner of Gavi since 2006 when former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer committed our first $20 million. Now back then that made Australia the 16th largest donor to Gavi. We then moved to being the ninth largest and with today's announcement we have moved up to being the seventh largest donor in the world to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance - $250 million over five years gets you seventh spot.

Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a replenishment event for Gavi in January of 2015, and Australia again will make an appropriate pledge. This is life-changing work. The Australian Government is determined to play its part and I thank the Labor Party for its commitment and its support for the work that the Australian Government does in partnership with Gavi.

Congratulations to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

- Ends -

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