SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

12 March 2019

LABOR’S PACIFIC AVOIDABLE BLINDNESS AND VISION LOSS FUND

A Shorten Labor Government will invest $32 million in a Pacific Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss Fund.

Loss of sight condemns people in developing countries to a life of poverty and decreased life expectancy.

It is estimated that in the developing world 80 per cent of all blindness and vision impairment is avoidable or treatable.

Australia is well placed to help eliminate avoidable blindness and vision impairment in our region, which is why the Rudd Labor Government partnered with leading aid agencies and medical organisations to deliver the Avoidable Blindness Initiative.

Over 35,000 people received cataract surgeries to restore sight delivered through this initiative by the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium.

However, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has reduced annual aid expenditure on eye health by approximately 41 per cent over the last four years.

A Shorten Labor Government will partner with organisations such as The Fred Hollows Foundation, Vision 2020 Australia and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists to clear a backlog of cataract treatments and aid those with moderate to severe visual impairments in the Pacific.

It will also train up to 600 health workers across the region and support program implementation in-country, including delivering screening and examination for eye health conditions.

Labor will also increase the annual base grant funding for fully accredited NGOs in the Australian NGO Cooperation Program at a cost of $32 million over the forward estimates.

This increase reflects Labor’s commitment to working with non-government organisations to strengthen Australia’s aid delivery and also reflects our recognition that non-government organisations play a vital role in engaging with civil society.

A strong civil society is vital to democracy, inclusion, transparency and openness, accountability, and the protection of minorities and marginalised groups.

A Shorten Labor Government will engage with civil society, not just as partners in the delivery of projects, but to support and strengthen the work they do and the role they play in their own countries.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.