House of Representatives – October 17, 2016

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (11:17):  What a marvellous address we have just heard. All our love goes to Analise.

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Australia, causing to 33 per cent of deaths;

(2) further recognises that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month;

(3) congratulates the Government for being committed to cancer research through funding the National Health and Medical Research Council and Cancer Australia, and establishing the Medical Research Future Fund;

(4) welcomes the Government providing $18.5 million to the McGrath Foundation to deliver 57 trained breast care nurses to assist and care for people diagnosed with breast cancer;

(5) further congratulates the Government for delivering savings to taxpayers while ensuring that the latest cancer-fighting medications are on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), available for patients as soon as possible, without fear or favour;

(6) welcomes the addition of new drugs such as Herceptin and Kadcyla within the Government’s investment in the PBS; and

(7) further welcomes the large number of approvals for cancer-fighting drugs that this Government has approved for the PBS, worth over $1.9 billion.

Nobody’s life remains untouched by cancer. Even if it does not directly affect you, you will undoubtedly know someone who has had their body ravaged by it or their life taken. Annually, more than 123,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in Australia. Unlike other foes, it comes upon us silently and with little warning. It is the cause of three in 10 Australian deaths every year. If it were another disease, we would be in hysterics at its terrible impact and its insatiable appetite. Sadly, it has become almost part of us—an accepted consequence of living. Even in this modern world, where we expect the wonders of technology to deliver new miracles each and every year, we have not yet banished this old enemy.

A headline of a few days ago said, ‘Rebecca Wilson: renowned sports journalist dies from breast cancer at 54’. It brought home to all of us that nobody is immune from this horrific disease. The article said:

Wilson’s family says she kept her illness a closely guarded secret to limit the suffering of friends, colleagues and family.

The sports journalist Rebecca Wilson has died after a “secret” battle with breast cancer, her family has revealed.

News that the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph columnist and broadcaster had died at 54 came as a shock to the media and sports communities on Friday morning because her illness was “a closely guarded secret”.

I am proud to say that this government is playing its part in the fight against this insidious disease. Of course, response has taken many forms, whether it is backing Australian researchers in their pursuit of more effective drugs or even cures, promoting events like October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month or giving $18.5 million to the McGrath Foundation to deliver 57 trained breast care nurses to assist and care for people diagnosed with breast cancer. And yet the most significant development, I believe, is giving greater access to cheaper essential medicines through their listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

As anyone who has battled cancer will know, the stresses are enormous and all too often made worse by wondering how you will pay the huge healthcare bills that go with the long term battle. It was fitting that Minister for Health and Aged Care, Minister Sussan Ley, marked the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by announcing subsidised access on 1 October to a preventive medicine that could reduce women’s risk of getting breast cancer by 30 to 40 per cent over their lifetime. The medicine, tamoxifen, is the first preventive, risk-reduction treatment for breast cancer listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It will have extended availability on the PBS to reduce risk in people at moderate to high risk of developing breast cancer.

Minister Ley called the drug a significant listing for patients at risk of developing breast cancer. She also said it demonstrates the government’s commitment to preventing illness by funding new and innovative medicines. I wholeheartedly agree.

We must continue to support the fight against cancer, backing research and development that may one day see its end. While we are working toward that wonderful day, we must also continue easing the burden of cancer sufferers through cheaper treatments for everyone.