Interview on 2GB Drive with Ben Fordham

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's inteview on 2GB Drive with Ben Fordham.

Page last updated: 23 February 2017

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22 February 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Announcement to deliver faster supply of medicinal cannabis products for patients with the necessary approvals

BEN FORDHAM:
On the line, the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt. Mr Hunt, good afternoon.

GREG HUNT:
And good afternoon Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. You are easing restrictions on the importation of medicinal cannabis.

There’ll be a lot of families out there who’ve got sick loved ones who will be very pleased to know about this, but how will it affect them? How can they take advantage of this change, and when can they take advantage of it?

GREG HUNT:
So we are easing those import restrictions. What we’re doing is moving to set up an interim national supply.

Basically the problem is that whilst it’s technically legal for medical professionals to prescribe, it’s just been incredibly difficult for families that might be of children with severe epilepsy or people who have an ageing parent in the later stages of life with just an incredibly painful cancer, and so it’s been very hard to get hold of it.

What we’ve done is put out a call today through the Office of Drug Control, which is part of the Department of Health, to say we will now authorise private providers who are appropriately qualified to bring in from overseas countries, there’s a small number of countries that can do the provision, an interim national supply.

We will work with the states to make that available. Eight weeks is the period we’re looking at.

BEN FORDHAM:
So you want this cannabis oil and similar products to be available within two months to Australians who desperately need it?

GREG HUNT:
Correct.

BEN FORDHAM:
Well, that’s fantastic. I can tell you, I’ve got a mate who’s very lucky to be alive, minister, and I sat over lunch talking to him about 12 months ago, and he said everyone reckons cannabis oil is the best thing I can get my hands on, but the stuff’s illegal.

And I just said mate, honestly, if I was in that predicament, I’d just be getting my hands on it one way or another, but you’re forcing people to break the law.

GREG HUNT:
So I don’t want people to be in that situation. It then becomes a matter for patients and their doctors, and not all doctors are supportive of this.

It’s like any medicine, a very serious medicine. It will be the doctors that will make the decisions as to whether to issue a prescription, but what we want to do is make it absolutely the case that if a doctor prescribes, the patients will actually be able to readily and easily obtain the medicine.

BEN FORDHAM:
Alright, let me ask you about this, because the Opposition Leader in New South Wales, Luke Foley, wants to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis. So this raises a fair question. What will happen if a terminally ill person is caught with their medicinal cannabis on the street?

GREG HUNT:
So that’s completely a matter for the states. We don’t at a federal level govern or provide laws on what’s a state-based matter.

We have no control, no authority, so it’s entirely a matter for the individual states on their laws in relation to possession. We are not changing recreational use.

We are not authorising, endorsing any of those questions. What we’re doing is the Federal Government rightly, understandably has national rules for medicines.

We are making it clear that this is now something that can be prescribed by doctors, and if it is prescribed, we will get on with the business of making sure there’s an interim national supply, something that’s never been done in Australian history, something that from day one in the job only a few weeks ago, I’ve wanted to do.

And we’ve pulled it forward, done that, and for those families that are in it, as somebody who is in desperate need or desperate pain, this becomes an option for their doctor to prescribe.

BEN FORDHAM:
Well, well done. There’s been a lot of talking on this for a long time. It’s nice to see some action, and I love the timeframe. Within two months, we might see it rolling in.

Now on a lighter note, my colleague Steve Price has been very open with 2GB listeners for a long time that his wife Wendy works in your office. I’m wondering …

GREG HUNT:
Yes, absolutely. Chief-of-staff.

BEN FORDHAM:
I’m wondering whether you’ve noticed Wendy is happier since Pricey’s been in the jungle.

GREG HUNT:
There is a lot of discussion in the office, and those who know will hear pretty tough, and she sees him on the TV, and he’s grimacing, you’ll hear come on, toughen up. I think secretly she misses him desperately, but she puts on a pretty strong face around the office, and keeps telling him to toughen up. I expect the family desperately wants him to win.

BEN FORDHAM:
Alright. Okay, well, I’d heard there was an extra spring in her step since he’d been away, but that must have been false and misleading. Fake news, as they call it these days. Good to talk to you, Greg Hunt.

GREG HUNT:
See you later.

ENDS

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