Thursday, 23 August 2018
Often I get to meet with school groups here in the parliament, as do other members of the parliament. It's one of the highlights of our day. It seems to be the grade 6-ers that come, which seems to be about 12 years of age. They always ask me a little bit about how the parliament works—those sorts of things. What I tell them is that they can actually implement change. They can actually make an idea come to a reality.
I want to tell a story to the parliament to help expand that. It's about two people in the electorate of Mallee, Alexa Cameron and Blair Gould. Blair is walking around the parliament today. He's in a blue T-shirt. You'll see many of children walking around the parliament today—they're the juvenile diabetes people—children living with type 1 diabetes. Blair came and saw me in Birchip, a great place to visit if you want a vanilla slice at the bakery—
Bridgewater is now in the electorate of Mallee, which I've got to say has got the best vanilla slice in Australia. Blair said to me, 'Look at this, Andrew, I've pricked my finger 7,000 times testing for type 1 diabetes. If I could have a continuous glucose monitor—they're a little patch that goes in here that connects via bluetooth to your phone—I would ultimately not have to do that'. It would make management of type 1 diabetes better, particularly for rural based people, because they can be monitored externally. It would also give comfort to children, because they can go to school and mum doesn't have to check on them so much. She can look remotely, and they can go and play with their mates.
Anyway, we took that idea to the health minister. We got a no. We then took it to the health minister again. We got a no. The health minister at the time was Sussan Ley, the member for Farrer. But eventually we got a yes and now every child in Australia under 21 years of age gets a continuous glucose monitor if they've got type 1 diabetes—$54 million. This is really what being in government means, and what good government can deliver.
I would have liked to have seen some more downward pressure on the manufacturers of these products. I think that, if the Australian government is subsidising these products nationwide, it would also stand to reason that the price of these products would go down, which would help people over 21 years of age. I've got to say to the manufacturers: 'You've got a pretty good deal out of the federal government. You're making a lot of money out of us. I want you to make these products cheaper so they're available for people over the age of 21 years.'
There is a point when you develop a technology where you get a benefit from that technology. But, I think there is a bit of profit taking, frankly. When I was advocating for this, I would bring all of these companies in. I would say, 'Tell me about your continuous glucose monitor. Tell me about your product that you have available'. They'd tell me about it and everything. I'd say, 'Can I get one for 12 months and trial it with a family?' They weren't very generous. They didn't want to do that.
One thing I want to say is that we are watching you manufacturers of these products. You are doing very well for the children of Australia—we are subsidising you to the tune of $54 million—but I want to see the price come down so it is cheaper for adults, because it is an expense. They're saying to us that we should subsidise adults. Maybe there is merit in that, but I want to see some downward pressure on price.
The other thing I want to say is that our medical research fund has some money put aside for the clinical research network for juvenile diabetes. I believe that that funding runs out in June 2019. I would like to see another allocation of funds into that research because, ultimately, whilst we're learning how to manage the disease, I'm very optimistic about the future of the science, where we might be able to do some stuff with stem cells, with some greater medicines, where we can actually get insulin being reproduced again within the body and not have to produce it externally. Can I also say as a bit of a sideline to those who criticise agricultural GM technology, that insulin comes from GM technology. So there are some things where GM technology has a really beneficial outcome for the children of Australia. I think that's sometimes lost in the debate by those who might have a purist view.
Well done to the children who are up here and advocating. Well done to the children in my electorate. You can have an idea that can change the health outcomes of Australians and that can change the world. Members of parliament always listen to 12-year-olds, because their ideas are great ideas. Thank you.