Hon. AM BLIGH (South Brisbane—ALP) (Premier and Minister for the Arts):

We are very fortunate in Queensland to have access to some of the best immunisation services in the world. Queensland children have access to a fully funded schedule of vaccines protecting against diseases such as whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, chickenpox, rubella, hepatitis B, polio and meningococcal C. Nationally, we have seen a decline in many serious infectious diseases. In Queensland, our childhood immunisation rates are good, being generally above 90 per cent for children at one and two years of age. However, unfortunately we continue to see some serious infectious diseases circulating.

At present in Queensland, and indeed across Australia, we are seeing alarming increases in whooping cough rates. This was brought home to me last month when Toni and David McCaffery from northern New South Wales wrote to me about the tragic death of their newborn daughter, Dana Elizabeth, who had been airlifted to the Mater Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Unfortunately, Dana at four weeks of age was too young to be vaccinated. In just the first three months of this year in Australia more than 8,000 adults and children have been diagnosed with whooping cough. The death of this baby has I think brought home to all of us how important immunisation is. The McCafferys have set up a website as part of their effort

Whooping cough has resulted in three deaths of babies this year alone in Australia—fortunately, none of them Queensland babies but babies like Dana Elizabeth who came here to the Mater Hospital. Those babies, as I said, were all too young to have been fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, too many parents continue to leave their children unprotected and unvaccinated, putting not only the lives of those children at risk but tragically that of others. But what is important to remember is that even those parents who are the most diligent about vaccinating their own children are often unaware of the importance of adults getting regular vaccination boosters.

Babies should not be dying of whooping cough in Australia in the 21st century. It is as simple as that. Each and every one of us needs to redouble our efforts. I strongly encourage all parents of young children and all adults who have frequent contact with young children to get a boosted dose of whooping cough vaccine. As I said, many adults simply do not realise that the whooping cough shots that they had as children do not protect them throughout their adult lives and they need to get boosters.

I have requested the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health to fully examine our current immunisation programs with particular reference to whooping cough given the alarming increase in diagnosis rates and to take steps to improve the rates of vaccination and community awareness of the importance of adults maintaining their own immunity. On my health minister’s request, this was raised at the most recent meeting of the council of ministers for health around the country.

There was a debate in this chamber yesterday about the sorts of issues that we could find bipartisanship on and take forward in the public interest. I would suggest that this is one on which there would be no disagreement across the House. I encourage all members, if they have good ideas about how we could increase vaccination rates and assist in seeing an increased level of protection for children and bring down these rates of whooping cough, please talk to the Deputy Premier.

We are all ears.