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

NEIL MITCHELL:

On the line now is the Health Minister, Greg Hunt, who personally did help get Gina to the US. Mr Hunt, good morning.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning, Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Just before we get into that, I’m just looking at a tweet I’ve just seen from Bill Shorten, are we into Mediscare too? It says first 50 days of a Shorten Labor government we will end Scott Morrison’s Medicare freeze.

GREG HUNT:

Oh it’s slightly desperate and deliberately dishonest.

They started a Medicare freeze, we ended it in the 2017 budget and indeed, one thing we’ve done is increase funding for diagnostic imaging which means x-rays, ultrasounds.

Only in the last week, they never touched it in their entire six years in government, we’ve done it.

I think they’ve been caught out on that. Look they’ll be dishonest all the way through, but this was the guy, Bill Shorten, who stopped listing new medicines when he was assistant treasurer and that was really a very, very disappointing moment in Australian medical.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But do you match this? So say within – they’re bringing it forward – within 50 days of being elected, they will end the Medicare freeze on those 100 items, 100 GP items.

GREG HUNT:

So we’ve already announced right across Medicare that we have and we’ve delivered the ending of the freeze, we’ve done it in a staged way.

And I think what they’re talking about is 100 out of 5700 items where they’d make a change of one year and about 50 cents per item on most of those.

So I think he’s been caught on the back foot by what we’ve done on x-rays and ultrasounds which they’ve refused to match and agree to.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But those 100 Medicare GP payments he’s talking about will still remain frozen under you or at least for that little bit longer?

GREG HUNT:

Look I think- let us see what they’ve actually announced.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Alight, okay.

GREG HUNT:

But at the end of the day, they started the freeze and we’ve not just ended it, but most importantly, we’ve provided these life saving medicines and a guarantee that if the medical experts list them and recommend them, we will fund them and that’s what we’re doing.

And it was something that Mr Shorten should answer about today, when he was assistant treasurer, he actually stopped the listing of new medicines that had been recommended by the medical experts for things such as schizophrenia, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, endometriosis, IVF, really just a very disappointing moment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, I do want to get to your announcement.

GREG HUNT:

Yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But just on the same issue, the Head of the Royal Australian College of GP’s, Dr Harry Nespolon has urged doctors, GP’s to lobby their patients on the election. Is that appropriate?

GREG HUNT:

Well I don’t think he has argued for either side, obviously- their job is to make sure that they continue to get the best outcome.

We’ve got a very significant package relating to general practice that I think Mr Shorten is aware of.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you’re quite happy for it.

GREG HUNT:

(Inaudible) far greater than anything that’s been announced today (inaudible) in the budget. And he’s (inaudible) aware of that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

See, I don’t want to go to the doctor and be lobbied politically for either side, but you think it’s quite appropriate?

GREG HUNT:

No I’ll leave it to them but what I am told is that it’s not a part of (inaudible). We’ve got a major farming healthcare initiative that’s coming in the next week.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

GREG HUNT:

And I’m really proud of that and I think also Mr Shorten knows that its far more significant than anything they’ve done today which is simply trying to catch up from what they did in stopping the listing of medicines.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Well this package for Victoria, $496 million over how long?

GREG HUNT:

So this is an investment package that will last over six years.

The bulk of it will be early on and the most significant thing is the $80 million for an Australian Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy, or cancer treatment at the Peter Mac Cancer Centre.

And what that does is it brings probably the world’s leading breakthrough treatment for cancer, what’s called the CAR T therapy to Melbourne, to help Melbourne and Victoria and Australian patients and it gives people who are in the later stages of their cancer journey and who might not have much hope for anything else, a real shot at life.

It puts Melbourne at the global forefront of cancer treatment and it will also help obviously with the jobs investment. But above all else, it’s about hope for patients and treatment for patients, and Peter Mac being one of the world’s leading global centres for the latest cancer treatment.

NEIL MITCHELL:

This is what Gina went to the States to get; is it available anywhere other than the States? Will Melbourne be the first place outside the United States?

GREG HUNT:

So I’m aware of the United States, I’m not aware of other countries but it might be. I just- I’ve got to be a bit cautious about making a categorical statement.

I know that we’ll be the first place in the Southern hemisphere and the first in the Asian region to do this and it’s not just treatment, it’s effectively a production facility as well, which means that we could be providing a health global and regional service.

So very, very important to Melbourne being a global centre of excellence for medical research, but above all else, patients.

NEIL MITCHELL:

When should patients be then benefitting from it? How far off?

GREG HUNT:

I spoke with Simon Harrison last night who’s one of the lead haematologists.

So if you think of blood treatment at Peter Mac, and he was saying they’ll be able to start delivering clinical trials almost immediately.

Now to patients with certain types of blood cancers - leukaemia and lymphoma primarily, this has the potential over time to migrate to what are called hard tumour cancer that could be for example, breast cancer or bowel cancer or other very common cancers.

But right now, they will start to do the first clinical trials in this space almost immediately.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay. Couple of other quick things – more money for headspace, more headspace centres, which is timely, there’ve been- I was just looking at figures today, we’re running at almost two suicides a week on the rail system this year. Now, what are you putting into headspace?

GREG HUNT:

So we’re putting $16 million into headspace in Victoria, this is on top of an additional $200 million that we’ve announced recently for national headspace, but there’s (inaudible) out of a meeting of tradies, about 100 tradies at Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula where we’ve announced $2 million for Victorian suicide prevention outreach within the trades community.

We know that 75 per cent of people who take their lives are males.

We know that simply reaching out and talking to them about the fact that mental health challenges are normal, crises are normal and that they can talk about it.

And whether it’s through your doctor, whether it’s through a psychologist or even just talking with mates, that can literally make a massive difference.

And so I’ve come from a room of plumbers and builders and others who were really willing to talk about it and that’s going to make a massive difference.

So this issue is hugely important, but it’s across all ages, but we know that if we reach out and people realise that mental health challenges are normal and that they’re not alone, that can make a massive difference.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I know there’s much more in the package, we’ll let you go and talk about that later. Thank you very much for your time.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks Neil.