Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister update the House on the latest statistics on the rate of cancer in Australia? What is the government doing to improve cancer treatment, and are there any challenges to this approach?
I thank the member for Wakefield for his question. I know he is particularly interested in the latest information about cancer statistics across the country. I was recently in his electorate to make an announcement about our regional cancer services that are providing chemotherapy in Clare and in Gawler, both in his electorate, and also about a new linear accelerator at the Lyell McEwin Hospital, so I know that he, along with many others in the House, would have been interested to see in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report today that unfortunately the rate of cancer, and the diagnosis of cancer, is growing in our country. Unfortunately it shows us that we can expect, this year, that 115,000 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer, a 10 per cent increase on the figures from 2006. The good news is that we are getting better at detecting and treating cancers, and survival rates are improving.
One of the reasons the government has invested so much in cancer services, particularly services in regional areas, is that the outcomes for those Australians who are diagnosed with cancer and live in rural and regional Australia are still significantly worse than the outcomes for Australians living in one of our capital cities if they are diagnosed with cancer. We were not prepared to let that difference continue. The government has also announced that it is taking very serious action when it comes to trying to reduce the rate of smoking tobacco. Tobacco is a killer product. Unfortunately we still have many Australians who use it, and our increasing the excise is aimed at trying to reduce the numbers of people that will take up smoking to start with. Of course the world-first introduction of plain packaging will help make it less attractive for young Australians into the future.
I am pleased to be able to tell the House that, although the Institute of Health and Welfare report shows the number of Australians who are diagnosed with cancer will increase, the 20 additional regional cancer centres across Australia will have an enormous impact on the treatment of cancer. The projects that we have announced to date represent 14 extra linear accelerators, 22 additional radiation oncology bunkers, over 250 chemotherapy beds or chairs, over 140 patient accommodation places and 10 scanners such as CTs, MRIs and PETs. Communities across Australia have been calling out for these investments, and unfortunately the previous government did not listen to many of those calls. So I was very interested to see in the Townsville Bulletin on 12 June this advertisement from the Liberal Party, with the Leader of the Opposition saying:
We will deliver a PET Scanner immediately.
Unfortunately, during nearly 12 years in government, the Leader of the Opposition did not deliver a PET scanner to those people of Townsville. As the health minister, he did not deliver it. I think members opposite might be embarrassed to know that this advertisement that they are so gleefully calling out about is an absolute lie from the member opposite. This government has committed $70 million to deliver cancer services to Townsville—
Mr Speaker, I am assuming you are going to ask the minister to withdraw the word that she used to describe the promise of the coalition, as it is out of order.
Let us actually go through the facts. We have been in government for nearly three years. We have made a commitment to $70 million of cancer services in Townsville. That comes on top of a $250 million commitment in Townsville to expand the hospital. There is $70 million for regional cancer services in Townsville and Mount Isa, including a PET scanner due to be delivered in 2012. This will be the first time ever that north of Brisbane there is a PET scanner. There was not one when the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister. There was not even a promise when the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister. Now that we have provided the money and provided the timetable, we see an advertisement which includes the absolute lie that it should suddenly be believed that this man opposite, who did not provide a PET scanner when he was the health minister, is now going to deliver one without money, without funding, without the time and not at the public hospital. This advertisement is an absolute lie, and the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of himself.