ALP OPINION PIECE from THE HON AMANDA RISHWORTH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL and MEMBER FOR KINGSTON
This opinion piece was first published by the Townsville Bulletin on Thursday, 23 February 2017.
MINISTER FAILS DEFENCE COMMUNITY ON MEFLOQUINE
Last year the Government put out a media release which sought to relieve the concerns of many if the ADF and ex-service community of the anti-malarial drug, Mefloquine. Their ability to deliver on this has been underwhelming.
An anti-malarial, once used in ADF drug trials and now used as a third-string prescription drug, Mefloquine has been used in the Australian Defence Force for defence personnel deploying to high-risk malarial environments.
Included in the lining of his media release was four specific ways in which the Government would address the communities concerns of Mefloquine. Namely, these included community consultation to provide an open dialogue between DVA and Defence to the ex-service and ADF community, a comprehensive online resource, a dedicated Mefloquine support team and an inter-departmental DVA-Defence Links Committee to examine issues raised and provide advice to the Government by November 2016.
It is now mid-February 2017 and if the Government has received advice from the committee, it has not made it public. The communities’ ability to engage in open dialogue with the Defence Link Committee is stymied by their ability to contact them and the online resource is not a one-stop shop for those who have real concerns on Mefloquine. Rather, this website engages some basic information on Mefloquine and there are questions around the resourcing of the team in DVA and the process of referrals to specialists.
The Government’s ability to address the concerns of Mefloquine has fallen short and veterans and the ex-service community are left in the dark. Transparency and engagement with the veterans and ex-service community would see a better response from
Government. Instead, the Minister continues to hide behind a media release, which has now expired with his own November deadline.
There is no doubt anti-malarial’s are a crucial component of malaria prevention for our deployed personnel. Our ADF personnel require all the support they need in order to ensure their health and safety is first and foremost. The Government’s ability to meet the concerns of some in the community is not seen as a priority.