Remarks and Doorstop, Melbourne
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's remarks and doorstop in Melbourne regarding support for Australia’s world-class medical researchers.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
18 January 2018
Topics: More support for Australia’s world-class medical researchers, Australia Day, abortion services in Tasmania, Kristina Keneally
Thanks very much to Professor Kathryn North, to Professor Martin Delatycki, to Professor Adam Vogel from the University of Melbourne, to Louise Corben, who’s one of our great researchers, and then to everybody here at Murdoch.
The Murdoch is one of not just Australia’s but undoubtedly one of the world’s premier children research institutes. And that’s by subjective and objective in terms of all of the international assessments and the incredible work that you’re all involved in. So I want to thank you for that.
Very briefly, medical research is one of our four pillars as a National Health Plan in Australia. It’s fundamental to what we do over not just months and years, but decades, and we were discussing conditions such as spinal muscular atrophy.
A diagnosis which for any parent is a catastrophic diagnosis, and yet the work of research here and in other comparable institutions around the world is giving parents real hope. And that’s what medical research is about.
It’s giving patients hope, for so many genetic conditions, and the work that we’re doing on rare cancers, on rare diseases, you are an extraordinary group of people so I wanted to start by acknowledging that and also one of our patients today, Leah, a magnificent, brave mum who’s doing wonderful things as a teacher and also helping (inaudible) with great support here from everybody at Murdoch, in terms of rehabilitation, recovery, and treatment of ataxia.
So against that background, we announced last year the formation of a rare cancers rare diseases program. The first allocation under that is a $13 million fund, but shortly we’ll have more to say about a very significant increase in the size of that fund.
And Nicole, I want to thank you and Rare Voices for your work, the Rare Cancers Rare Diseases Program will be absolutely seminal in terms of clinical trials and registries going forward.
So today, I’m delighted to announce the first two grants under that, both for ataxia, and I know that ataxia is something that we were discussing can have an impact on over 3000 Australians. It makes it very hard with walking and talking, with the loss of fine motor skills, and this can be a disease which can be completely life changing.
We have tremendous stories such as Leah. Still a difficult journey, but great courage and great support are all being brought together, and so we’ll be awarding $1.2 million to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, a project led by Professor Delatycki in terms of rehabilitation and recovery, so we’re doing the long-term research and we’re doing the immediate patient treatment.
In addition to that, for Adam and his team at the University of Melbourne approximately $500,000 for working on speech pathology and speech therapy as it can assist with the treatment, the management and the rehabilitation with ataxia.
And so those are the first two grants. The remainder will be coming shortly, and the extension of the program which I think will be a very exciting moment, Nicole, to put it on permanent basis so it isn’t just a one-off grants round, will also be part of that.
The other thing I have to announce is today is the announcement of 21 Next Generation Clinical Researcher Fellowships. So the best and the brightest emerging such as Louise, although she’s already highly credentialed and established in her field.
In her case, we’ll be awarding $400,000 to sponsor additional work with ataxia so clearly a very strong focus on neurological conditions, conditions that affect people with mobility and their ability to speak, their ability to carry out their day-to-day activities.
All the things you dream of working on, and there are 20 other grants as part of a total $10 million program, and these include acute myeloid leukaemia, work on methadone, stroke recovery. So many different areas.
So we are supporting medical research, we are supporting hope, and we are supporting treatment, and Kathryn be able to be here at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is to support the people who are supporting Australians who need it.
I’m delighted to announce two new ground-breaking research projects for ataxia, a condition which in many cases can shorten lives, make it difficult to walk, difficult to talk, take away motor skills, can completely change and debilitate people.
So this is about hope. It’s about focusing on rare diseases and rare cancers. The two new projects for the University of Melbourne and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are about providing breakthroughs in terms of recovery, rehabilitation, treatment, saving lives and improving lives.
So one of the stories still around is that of Australia Day and today an Essential poll has found that most Australians don’t really mind what day it’s held on. Do you give much weight to that? And I guess if that is in fact the case, why has the Government sort of resisted having this conversation?
Australia Day is about celebrating one of the world’s most successful nations. A nation which brings together people from around the world. It’s about the strength of who we are.
We are a successful nation. The evidence of that is that people from around the world are committed and seeking to come to Australia every day of every year to visit and to live here.
I think the message is very clear. We should be celebrating our nation. Australians celebrate Australia Day. We’re committed to Australia Day. We’re committed to celebrating Australia and acknowledging its strengths and its challenges.
The ALP and Mr Shorten simply don’t know whether they believe in Australia Day, whether they believe in the Australian story as a positive and uplifting story.
We believe in Australia Day. Mr Shorten has to say whether he supports it or whether he supports the radical left.
Minister, the poll also showed that Australians or a majority of Australians don’t even know why we celebrate it on the 26th. Shouldn’t there be, if there is going to be an Australia Day celebration, shouldn’t we know why we’re celebrating it?
Well, I think the point here is that the Greens don’t believe in the concept of Australia Day. They don’t believe that we should be celebrating our history. And the Labor Party is torn between the Greens on the one hand and the mainstream of Australia on the other hand.
It doesn’t matter what day you would put Australia Day on, the Greens and the radical left and the left of the ALP would object to the fact that we are celebrating the success of modern Australia, and that’s the real issue.
They don’t believe that we are a successful nation. They don’t believe that we are a diverse nation. We’re a nation which is a beacon to the world. And any day that the Australia Day would be put on would be perceived by the Greens and the radical left of the ALP as an affront.
That is simply at odds with mainstream Australia. It’s at odds with everything. It’s right that we celebrate Australia. It’s right that we celebrate Australia Day and it’s right that we celebrate it on the current day.
Linda Burney has raised the prospect of perhaps a separate day to celebrate our Indigenous heritage. Would you support at least considering that idea?
Look, I will leave that for others. It’s not a proposal I’ve seen at this stage. But I do celebrate Indigenous Australia and I think we should be immensely proud of Indigenous Australia.
We’ve said before we support constitutional recognition and we’ve seen incredible steps forward of course under Harold Holt. We had the extraordinary referendum and the success of that.
So this is a time for all Australians and it’s an opportunity to celebrate the success of Australia for all Australians.
Just another question I guess relating more so to your portfolio. But in Tasmania you’d be aware that the last abortion clinic has effectively closed, meaning women wanting the procedure will have to travel to Melbourne.
I know that the Government has said this is an issue for Tasmania, but surely this is not a situation that we can accept in 2018. Is there more pressure you can be putting on your counterparts in Tasmania to ensure that women don’t have to go through the costly rigmarole of getting to Melbourne for the procedure?
Well, I understand that the Tasmanian Government is addressing both public and private services. They are the provider of public services and the private services of course are delivered through the private system.
The Commonwealth provides Medicare rebates for obstetric procedures including this and we will continue to provide those rebates and I would encourage the Tasmanian Government to complete the work that they are doing in ensuring that these services are available for all women.
Could other states face a similar issue? I mean like now that we have the RU486 drug, does it mean that these clinics aren’t profitable so more states could face the prospect of having no more clinics for abortion services?
I’m not aware that that is a risk that’s being faced by any other state and I’ve not had any reports to that effect.
And just finally Minister, it looks as though Kristina Keneally will take Sam Dastyari’s seat in the Senate. What do you make of that?
It just shows that the Labor Party has learnt nothing. Senator Dastyari is still a senator. He is still a senator. He should leave the Senate today and the Labor Party has to appoint their own person, but she was appointed, not voted, in as Premier.
She is being appointed, not voted in as a Senator and yet the people of New South Wales are very wise. They rejected Kristina Keneally as Premier. They rejected her for Bennelong and wisely chose John Alexander, and I think perhaps the ALP should learn from the wisdom of the people of New South Wales and Bennelong.