Doorstop in Canberra
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's doorstop in Canberra regarding $18 million for medical research projects to improve women’s health, endometriosis and My Health Record.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
8 August 2018
Topics: $18 million for medical research projects to improve women’s health; endometriosis; My Health Record; Emma Husar; tampon tax; euthanasia; NEG
Today’s a very important day for women’s health. This is about ensuring that every woman and every girl in Australia has access to even better care than they already receive, the chance to live a longer life, the chance to live a better life, whether it’s in terms of maternal and infant health, whether it’s our teens and access to mental health services and the confidence to seek services, whether it’s young women or women in middle age who are dealing with chronic conditions or those in older age.
The fact that we’re able to contribute $18 million for 29 new research projects which are all about practical outcomes for women. Three new centres for research excellence for breast cancer, for sexual and reproductive health and for non-communicable diseases are real beachheads.
But above all else, developing a long-term national women’s health strategy from 2020 to 2030 to last for a decade is to lay the foundation so as we can lift the incredible achievements we’ve already had, whether it’s in breast cancer, whether it’s in cervical cancer, whether it’s the steps forward in women’s mental health, endometriosis or eating disorders, that’s the foundation. But we’ve invited the best people in Australia but we want to invite every women, every Australian to have a part in developing this strategy.
Minister, you said in your speech just then that endometriosis is still a buried disease. We know that that manifests often with women having their experience of pain minimised or not believed altogether. Research out today shows that that’s not just within the medical fraternity, that’s women themselves discounting their own pain. What can be done to educate, not just women but also doctors and people who are involved in that kind of health care, of women’s pain and their experiences of pain?
The very reason we have this National Action Plan for Endometriosis is precisely because endometriosis has been buried for too long.
Women have not felt comfortable seeking help, in some cases they have been made to feel ashamed, or their pain or their circumstances have been dismissed or minimised. That’s why I offered a national apology last year. But that’s also why we’re delivering the strategy. The next steps are to work with the medical community but also our role models.
So to have so many powerful role models, such as Emma, the Yellow Wiggle, to have other leaders in the community talk about their condition, says to any women affected by endometriosis - your pain is real, the condition can be agonising, we acknowledge it, we want you to feel free to seek help and we want you to seek that help. So the more we talk about it, the more women will know that their condition is respected and that their circumstances can be treated.
We know that a really high percentage of people actually take- women take time off work, time off school because of debilitating period pain. Is there scope then for extra sick leave, extra days of sick leave, extra categories of sick leave to tackle this problem?
Well I think what we need to do is ensure that it’s treated to the same level as any other condition which would force any person to miss time from school, to miss time from work. And that has not been considered a reason.
One of the really powerful messages that came through the development of the action plan was that many women felt they couldn’t tell their story, they couldn’t talk to employers, and they couldn’t talk to their teachers in the case of younger women and older girls. And so to give them the freedom to seek that help and to be able to express the views and therefore to have the full range of treatment that would be available for any other condition is the absolutely critical thing.
Minister, last week you moved to allay any concerns with regards to the My Health Record and vowed to redraft legislation. Can you just bring us up to speed as to where you’re at with that progress?
Sure. So we’ve made the commitment to do a series of things. Firstly, we will lift the legislative protections to the same level as the policy. In six years, no record has been released to any law enforcement authority and the policy is that it won’t happen without a court order. We guarantee and we will ensure that the legislation is lifted to the level that requires the court order to match the existing policy. And that’s proceeding. I’ve been involved in drafting processes and it’s actually ahead of schedule and so I’m very pleased with that progress. But we’ll release that shortly once the drafting’s been done.
The second legislative commitment was to ensure that instead of material being archived for up to 130 years after a record has been cancelled, it will be deleted forever. Once it’s gone, it will be gone forever. And that will also be enshrined in the legislation. In addition, we will be extending by a month, the opt-out period. And we will also be working on further communication to the public.
So we’ve listened, we understand that people want to ensure that their material is available but that it’s safe. And it’s a system that’s operated for up to almost a quarter of the population, approximately six million Australians. Now it’s been operating for six years and we want to ensure that everybody has the confidence and these conditions, that we’ve agreed upon after listening to and working with the AMA and the College of GPs, are important.
A former staffer of Emma Husar has come out and said that one of the disgruntled staffers had been in contact with Bill Shorten’s office for the last few months. Bill Shorten has just denied that and said that he didn’t think that was right. Who do we believe?
So I won’t comment on the specifics because I don’t have the details in relation to Miss Husar. But the point for Mr Shorten is very simple - what did he know and when did he know it? What did he know and when did he know it?
Just regarding the tampon tax, or so-called tampon tax, as recently as June, the Coalition shot down Senate moves to axe the so-called tax. Why the sudden change of mind? It seems like it’s come out of nowhere.
Look, I think this is something that’s been discussed internally. I know this is something that’s been discussed internally for some period of time. What we’ve got to is an important outcome. I really support this. I’m deeply pleased.
Personally I’m just delighted that on our watch, in our time we’ll be able to do this. And I think that this will be an important step forward for so many women across Australia. It’s something where a lot of people have been supporting this and working towards the outcome and I want to thank the Treasurer, Kelly O'Dwyer and the Prime Minister for enabling it and allowing it to happen.
Do you think Bill Shorten’s being disingenuous when he says he doesn’t, does not, he had no idea about the Emma Husar allegations until they were published by BuzzFeed?
Well let’s just say that there are some contradictions from many people within the ALP. I won’t comment on the specific allegations in relation to Emma Husar. I don’t think that’s appropriate for me, I don’t have those facts. But again, for Mr Shorten, the test is very clear – what did he know and when did he know it? And let us know today.
On David Leyonhjelm’s euthanasia Territory Rights Bill, the Prime Minister has said he’d vote no if a vote does eventuate in the House of Representatives in a conscience vote. Which way would you vote?
I’ve said previously that whilst I support the right for people to refuse treatment, I don’t support the extra step of euthanasia. That’s not a new position. I have repeated that previously and I have not changed my views on that.
Do you not think that the Territory should have the right to have this debate themselves though, just like your home state of Victoria?
Look, I respect everybody’s views. I’ve been asked my position and my position hasn’t changed over many decades on this that I support the right for people to refuse to take treatment. Indeed my father crossed the floor on that bill some decades ago and in his own final week he made that decision based off the very legislation that he passed.
So it’s something I know very well. But I have not supported, and having spoken with many, many medical professionals, I know there are differing views but the view that has been predominantly put to me and also the view that I form myself is I don’t support euthanasia in Australia for the very simple message that it sends to older Australians about how they’re valued. But I respect that everybody can and should be entitled to different views on this. I have deep respect for alternative views.
Just on the NEG, Daniel Andrews has given some big tough eleventh hour demands on the Government. Do you not think he would have been more cooperative if the Government didn’t trash his government continuously over the past couple of years?
I don’t think Daniel Andrews could have more deliberately attempted to drive up power prices. He has had numerous discussions, there have been numerous private, numerous public, numerous fora on the NEG.
A last minute attempt to drive up power prices is something which is, I think, very surprising to Australians. At the end of the day, there is a question for Mr Shorten and for Mr Andrews – will you stop standing for higher power prices and support our plan for lower power prices?
Thanks very much.
Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.