House debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018


Petition: Breast Cancer Testing

11:26 am

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to present the Federation Chamber with a petition that's been presented to me by a member of my community. I'll speak first to it before I ask the chamber for leave to table the petition. Naomi met with me earlier this year to advocate for a particular test to be covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule. Like so many women that we know of in all of our communities she has had the tough battle with breast cancer. This is a hideous disease that hits at the heart and affects so many families and so many communities across our country.

During her breast cancer treatment last year it was unclear whether Naomi, a mother of one, would need chemotherapy. She was advised by her doctor at Bendigo Health to have an oncotype DX test, because it would help clarify whether she actually required chemotherapy, but that the test would cost $4,500 if she wished to proceed. Naomi says that she was fortunate enough to be able to afford this. The test revealed that she didn't need chemotherapy, much to the delight of her family, in particular her young child. Other public patients, Naomi argues, may not be able to afford this test. While she is now in recovery, it prompted her to start a campaign asking the Minister for Health to consider adding this test to the Medicare system. She believes that all women should have access to this test, that all should know if it's recommended by their doctor whether they need to proceed with the invasive process of chemotherapy. Naomi has been proactive. She sat down, had the conversations within her community of Malden and Macedon and collected the signatures of 971 people who say that they support her cause and are calling on the government to include this test under Medicare and provide breast cancer patients with the opportunity for better targeting and a better plan for their treatment.

Naomi is one of those people who just want others to have the same access as us. She really does embody that spirit of universal health care, something that we on this side of the House fight so closely for. If we want to have a universal healthcare system, we need to make sure that all patients, regardless of their income and whether they have a credit card, are able to afford or receive the best medical treatment and the best services available. I know in my community, even in my closest circles, how awful breast cancer is and the impact that it has on families.

Kate, a good friend of mine, has spoken to me about 'the chemo brain' and the fact that she just feels fuzzy. She is another one who acknowledges that she's in quite a good position, even though she is fighting breast cancer. She has income protection. She works for Bendigo Health. She also is an academic. She was able to take extended sick leave and continue to receive some form of income while she continues her brave fight against breast cancer. Not all women, not all families, are in the same situation. All of them struggle to meet the day-to-day costs, if they don't have those protections in place.

In this place, one of the things that we can do is ensure that women in that battle, the battle of their lives, do have access to the best testing and the best treatment available. That is why Naomi has asked me to rise and speak on this issue and to present to the chamber on her behalf a petition calling on all of us and calling on the health minister to consider funding this test so that all women, if it is recommended by their doctors, can have access. We all want to see women get the best treatment that they can, and I encourage everybody to consider this issue and to also speak in favour of it. I again congratulate Naomi and her community for raising this very important issue. I seek leave to table the petition.

Leave granted.

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The document will be forwarded to the Petitions Committee for its consideration and will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that it conforms with the standing orders. I once again thank the member for Bendigo for her advocacy on this extremely important issue.