House debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Questions without Notice


2:44 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how a stronger economy enables the government to invest in new life-saving treatments for patients living with cancer?

2:45 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Leichhardt, in particular for his advocacy for women to have access to new MRIs and PET scans for breast cancer and also for his advocacy for a new MRI machine for Cairns. Like everyone in this House, he comes both as a member of parliament and as somebody whose world has been rocked by the impact of cancer. I know that there are good people in every seat in this chamber to whom this is immensely important. At the moment, one of his closest friends, Trish Butler, is in the Cairns hospital battling multiple myeloma. Cancer touches all of us, and in this budget we've been fortunate to make some deep, profound and long-lasting investments that will help change the outcomes for patients.

Only last week, with the Prime Minister, I had the privilege of visiting the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. We were able to invest $80 million in the creation of a national centre for cellular immunotherapy. This is one of the breakthrough treatments within cellular immunotherapy. CAR T is at this point in time the most promising. There are Australians overseas—including Gina, whose husband I had a text from yesterday—who are currently receiving treatment. Right now, though, what we are doing through this investment is allowing Australians to have access to something which, for blood cancer such as leukaemia and lymphoma, can be a breakthrough treatment, potentially a cure, here in Australia. We will help lead the world with this investment.

It is the same in Sydney, where we are establishing, with a $100 million investment in this budget, in conjunction with the New South Wales government, Australia's first comprehensive cancer centre for children at the Sydney Children's Hospital. I was there only last Friday. I met a beautiful little girl, Olivia, who is three years old. She is battling a very serious form of brain cancer. That hospital is already providing extraordinary care and treatment to her and to her parents. Our hope is that she will win that battle. This new comprehensive cancer centre will make it more likely that children such as Olivia will win the battle and that their parents will have real hope.

That is what the new medicines that have been announced in this budget will do—medicines such as Ibrance, for 3,000 women with metastatic or advanced breast cancer, which would otherwise cost $55,000; medicines such Bavencio, for the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer, which would have cost over $150,000 will now be available for $6.50 or $40.34 for nonconcessional patients; and medicines such as Besponza, which the Treasurer announced last night, for advanced lymphoblastic leukaemia. These are things you can only ever do when you have a strong economy. These are the very reasons that we do the things we do. (Time expired)