Date published: 
10 March 2019
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

It’s a privilege today to be here at the Alfred Hospital.

The trauma unit here is not just one of the finest in Australia but undoubtedly one of the finest in the world. I’m very drawn to it.

My mother and my wife were both nurses here at the Alfred and I’m deeply aware of the literally life-saving work that occurs every single day, every single hour here at the Alfred.

So, to acknowledge Andrew Wade, the CEO of the hospital, Professor Terry O’Brien who’s taking care of this area, Dr McLoughlin, there are so many others involved.

Today, however, we are focusing on one particular part of the work of not just the Alfred but our major hospitals and universities and research institutes around the country.

Traumatic brain injury affects over 20,000 Australians in any one year. That can be devastating for themselves and for their families and the after-effects can last not just years but for a lifetime.

The causes can be things, obviously, such as road accidents, but also falls, also work accidents and sports injuries.

Wally, whom I met, was injured in a workplace accident and it was a tragic accident. But it is a reality of life that people suffer traumatic brain injury.

Until now there has never been a nationally coordinated approach to dealing with and identifying traumatic brain injury, and I’m absolutely privileged to have nationally-leading experts such as Professor Lindy Fitzgerald from Curtin University, Professor Bob Vink from the University of South Australia, Ganesh Varma and Geoffrey Rosenberg, who are here today, so many others.

Meng Law, who has come from the United States to be part of the team here at the Alfred.

Today I am delighted to announce that the Australian Government will establish the first ever Traumatic Brain Injury Mission.

This will be a 10-year initiative. It will involve an initial investment from the Australian Government of $50 million, but we expect to attract at least that amount from the states and the philanthropic sector making this, overall, a $100 million mission.

It’s the same model we followed with the Australian Brain Cancer Mission.

We invested $50 million, we expected $50 million over three years from the philanthropic sector, we were able to achieve that and more within 12 months.

I’m delighted to announce that Professor Lindy Fitzgerald will help lead this mission and it will be a national mission involving every state and territory.

Other participants include those who are here today with both Ganesh and Bob as the deputy leaders of the mission. But we’ll be drawing in people from every state and territory.

At the end of the day what is this about? It’s about laying down a national framework where we are able to do clinical trials, work that will focus on the first hour of care, on stabilising patients and reducing damage at the outset, and then the long-term work in terms of using biomarkers and other predictive tools to help diagnose and chart a path for recovery and rehabilitation for each patient.

We know that the cost of brain injury can be catastrophic in terms of the human outcomes for individuals and families.

It can also be a lifetime cost of between $2.5 and $4.8 million per patient, depending on their circumstances.

Above all else, if we can make that first hour of care even better than it is, if we can chart the recovery course so as to help with rehabilitation, then we can give people back their lives.

And to see somebody such as Wally, who has been through a very difficult journey, but to see the progress, to see the recovery, is to see what the Alfred and all of our great hospitals in Australia can achieve with the right support.

So this is about making Australia the world’s leading traumatic brain injury research and treatment country. It’s as simple as that.

We want to be the world’s leading traumatic brain injury research and treatment nation. And with that, I’m delighted to launch the mission and to invite Professor Fitzgerald to say a few words.

MELINDA FITZGERALD:

I’d just like to thank the Minister for his massive investment in traumatic brain injury research in Australia.

We’re delighted, we’re excited about moving forward and being able to do this work. Traumatic brain injury spreads all the way from the most mild injuries like concussion through to severe head injuries such as we see here in this unit.

It affects young people, predominantly, and this leads to an enormous cost both to those individuals and to society as a whole.

So, when someone suffers a traumatic brain injury we don’t currently know whether they’re going to get well or not.

We do know certain factors influence, factors about the person as an individual, about how they are treated and about the nature of their injury, but we can’t actually accurately predict what’s going to happen to them.

So this mission will enable us to gather the information we need in order to be able to understand which patients need more specialised care, to be able to understand and predict and give patients and their families some kind of idea as to how they’re going to go.

This will also inform exciting new treatment strategies.

We’ll be able to design and run nationwide clinical trials that will really give some hope to people’s treatment of these injuries of all severities.

So, as Minister Hunt mentioned, this is a nationwide initiative.

Twenty-seven people got together in a formative team from all states and territories in Australia, we put personal interests aside and thought: what will change the game for people with traumatic brain injury? The result is this mission that you see before us that’s being funded today.

So, people that have already been acknowledged including Professor Bob Vink, who’s an internationally recognised neurotrauma expert, Professor Terry O’Brien, Mark Fitzgerald, head of trauma unit at the Alfred, all these people have been incredibly important in making this a reality. Neurosciences Victoria has brought us all together.

Outreach and advocacy groups like Brain Injury Australia, we have patient advocates around the table helping us to keep it real when we’re designing what we’re going to do to help improve lives for people that have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

And my own university has been particularly supportive, Curtin University and the Perron Institute.

But most of all we just would like to thank the Government for their vision and being able to see how they can actually make things better for people with traumatic brain injury. So thank you very much.

GREG HUNT:

Happy to take any questions on the mission first, then other items.

JOURNALIST:

Can you talk us through how this will work in a practical sense? Obviously there’s a lot of specialists, a lot of experts coming together.

Are they all going to work together on the same research, or how is it going to work?

GREG HUNT:

So, under the Medical Research Future Fund we’ve set up a series of missions: the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, the Genomics Mission, the Million Minds Mental Health Mission, the Dementia Mission, plus others.

And the way they work is they have a leadership team, in this case it will be led by Melinda Fitzgerald, and they will coordinate priorities and the research.

The initial scope is to focus on ensuring that we have a national registry of brain injuries and that includes not just the traumatic end but the more moderate end, a very important part of charting the impact of concussion in sport as well as from injury in road trauma and falls.

Secondly, it will focus on the areas of that first hour of care: what can be done to stabilise and reduce the impact from the outset.

And thirdly, what can assist with the rehabilitation.

So to offset the priorities, the grants will be done through a competitive process under their guidance and it’s a chance to have a registry, the first hour of care and the long-term recovery all brought together for the first time with a genuine national leadership bringing together our neurologists, our neurosurgeons, our traumatic brain injury specialists and patient advocates.

JOURNALIST:

Are you calling on the state governments to contribute to the funding for this program?

GREG HUNT:

We would like to see funding from the philanthropic and state sector.

That’s how the Brain Cancer Mission has worked. My confident belief is that our $50 million will in a short time be matched by philanthropic and state funding.

That’s how the Brain Cancer Mission worked and it’s being done in a very collaborative way, not in a pressured way, because this is a chance to actually make a massive difference to the lives of patients and the lives of their families and communities.

JOURNALIST:

It’s a 10-year mission. How long have you committed funding for?

GREG HUNT:

So, our funding is committed right through the mission, and so this is the initial allocation.

But the way we’ve done all of these missions is because the research community has spoken to us about the need to change the model so as there’s long-term certainty, what we have done is lay down 10-year funding plans.

And we can do that because the Medical Research Future Fund is a $20 billion endowment.

And therefore, we know that we will grow from 220 to 380 to 640 then $650 million in perpetuity, and that that amount of funding allows us to make these long term commitments.

JOURNALIST:

Do you know how much it will cost to overwrite (inaudible)?

GREG HUNT:

So the first ten-year allocation is based off $50 million Commonwealth.

I’m confident that that will then be doubled with the philanthropic funding, and it’s very possible – as we’ve seen with the brain cancer and the genomics missions – to add to that.

JOURNALIST:

So Minister, should the Government allow Milo Yiannopoulos into Australia?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I’ll leave that to the Immigration Department and the Immigration Minster. I understand that’s being considered by them. I don’t have the particular facts that are relevant to the decision.

JOURNALIST:

Alright, and what about- will the Government address the homecare package shortage – tens of thousands of spots before or after the budget?

GREG HUNT:

Well in fact, we have only recently announced 40,000 new homecare places over the last four economic updates, and it was within the last few weeks that we announced $320 million for residential care places and an additional 10,000 homecare places.

So, that is literally only a few weeks old, so a very, very important initiative which we announced.

JOURNALIST:

But do you think there should be more?

GREG HUNT:

Well, we’re continuously announcing new homecare places. And as I say, 40,000 new places; to record levels within recent months and indeed only 10,000 new places within recent weeks. And so, this is a continuous process.

JOURNALIST:

How confident are you of retaining your seat at the election?

GREG HUNT:

Look, I never presume. I always work to ensure that we’re delivering outcomes.

So, whether it’s in such as an upgrade for the GD Road intersection; whether it’s working in terms of new cancer services for Rosebud and for Mornington; whether it’s in terms of what we’re doing with regards to upgrading HMAS Cerberus or the electrification (inaudible) Baxter.

So my approach is always to fight for the things that matter for my own community and never to presume and always to let them judge.

JOURNALIST:

Do you regret moving against Mr Turnbull than now Mr Turnbull says he could beat Mr Shorten at the election?

GREG HUNT:

I’ll leave those matters for other people.

My focus, as ever, has always been – as it was yesterday at the Crib Point market and the (inaudible) show – to focus on what matters to the people of my electorate, and then the health needs of the nation.

I know what mattered to the people of Crib Point yesterday.

They were deeply concerned about the state government’s proposal for a gas plant in Western Port Bay, and it was overwhelming opposition to a floating gas plant being brought in by the state government because they banned gas developments of Victorian gas for Victorians in Victoria, and that’s what the people of Crib Point were talking to me about yesterday.

That was what they overwhelmingly raised.

JOURNALIST:

But given that the Coalition has the prospect of the Coalition losing at the election, do you have regrets?

GREG HUNT:

I have enormous faith in Scott Morrison, and so every election is a challenging battle, but there’s something about this guy, Scott Morrison.

He’s real, he’s authentic and he cares, and there was a bloke at the Western Port Angling Club last Sunday and he was a knock about guy – thongs, (inaudible) singlet, shorts – and he said to me: you know, I’ve been a traditional Liberal voter but I like this guy Scott Morrison.

He’s got two things that I really value. He seems strong and he seems compassionate, and that struck me as an authentic response to the Prime Minister.

Okay, thank you very much.