Radio interview with Minister Butler and Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast - 10 May 2024

Read the transcript of Minister Butler's interview with Michael Rowland and Bridget Brennan on historic Medicare changes for women battling endometriosis; domestic violence.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Social media giants including Meta and X are about to be put under fresh scrutiny in Federal Parliament. The Government argues they're more determined to wipe trusted news sources from their platforms, then scammers and other criminals.
BRIDGET BRENNAN, HOST: It's one of a number of issues on the political agenda in the lead up to next week's Federal Budget. The Government also announcing that women suffering endometriosis and complex gynaecological conditions will, for the first time, be able to access longer specialist consultations covered by Medicare. For more on that, the Federal Health Minister, Mark Butler, joins us now from Adelaide. Good morning, Minister, and welcome to the program.
BRENNAN: I'm sure this is going to be really welcomed news to the tens of thousands, in fact, millions of Australian women who suffer from endometriosis and other conditions because this is debilitating, and you often need a really long time to sit down with a doctor to explore treatment options. What have Australian women told you about the need for these longer consults?
BUTLER: They've been telling us that they've had to suffer in silence because Medicare hasn't been giving them the support that they need. If I go to see my cardiologist, for example, I'll receive twice as much funding from Medicare as a woman receives to go and see her gynaecologist, and that's meant that too many women have been either suffering in silence, or putting up with short consults that simply don't scratch the surface. Or if they do have a longer consult, paying huge out of pocket costs that I, for example, wouldn't have to pay if I went to my cardiologist. It is time to fix this frankly, historical discrimination. As one campaign has said to me, it's about bloody time, and we are going to fix it by doubling the amount of Medicare funding that a woman receives for a long consultation with her gynaecologist.
BRENNAN: If you're an Australian woman wanting to have one of these long consults, how much are you expected to be out-of-pocket or will you be able to bulk bill these kinds of long consults?
BUTLER: That will vary across the country and depend upon your gynaecologist. The important point from a Government's point of view, though, is that we as Medicare will pay exactly the same fee to a gynaecologist to see a woman for a long, complex consultation as other specialities receive: cardiology, gastroenterology, a range of others. Frankly, this has been a structural inequity or discrimination that's gone on for far too long.
BRENNAN: Minister, what's the Government doing about better treatment in terms of the perception, the understanding, frankly, the discrimination that too many women face when you go to the doctor to talk about these issues and you're told, oh, look, it's just your period, move on, and this can happen to any woman? In fact, the pain that's often associated is so extreme, and it can be even more painful when you’re turned away at the doctor.
BUTLER: Absolutely, we've got a comprehensive plan in this area, endometriosis in particular, but also chronic pelvic pain and PCOS. I'm visiting this morning, one of the 22 endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics we've opened across the country. That's a specialist source of advice and support that women and teenage girls can get. We're also developing clinical guidelines and other resources, more research for example, to make sure that GPs, who are often the first port of call for a woman or for a teenage girl suffering from sometimes excruciating pelvic pain, so that they aren't subject to those experiences that I hear so often that it's just period pain, or you're quickly put onto the pill rather than having that deep examination of what is going on there and coming up with proper treatment.
BRENNAN: Mark Butler, in terms of women being turned away from services, we've also heard this morning from the community legal sector, which is turning away thousands of victims of violence and sexual assault at their services, offering crucial support to women who often need apprehended, violence orders or support, leaving a very violent situation. Will there be more money in the Government for this crucial sector?
BUTLER: I can't tell you what's going to be in the Budget next Tuesday, as I'm sure you understand, Bridget. I do know the Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus has been looking at the operation of our community legal centres. They are such an important resource for a whole range of people dealing with legal issues, particularly, women and families fleeing domestic violence. I can't give you an indication of the way forward, but I know that Mark Dreyfus has been looking at this really important sector very closely.
BRENNAN: Alright, Air Vanuatu has gone into liquidation, we've just heard that breaking news this morning. Pretty concerning news for those who were stranded at the moment in Vanuatu. What's the Government doing in terms of trying to get people home?
BUTLER: I've only just really seen the reports that you would have seen Bridget. Very distressing stories for families who are stranded, and I know that the Transport Minister and her department will be taking action over the course of this morning to do what we can to help those families out.
BRENNAN: Thanks a lot, Minister, for your time this morning on News Breakfast.
BUTLER: Thanks, Bridget.


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