Thursday, 17 February 2022
Sergeant, Professor Brendan, Larsen, Jamie
I rise today to speak about two extraordinary Canberrans. Sadly, we recently lost Professor Brendan Sargeant to a terrible swimming accident on the coast. Brendan was the head of the highly acclaimed Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. He assumed this position after a long career in the Department of Defence, where he was a widely respected thought leader, rising to associate secretary and acting secretary.
Before becoming the member for Bean, I represented engineers and scientists working in Defence, for over a decade. From that vantage point I was able to witness the trials and tribulations of Defence from up close. While I experienced many frustrations, my interactions with Brendan were always positive and professional. He had the hard-earned respect of the unions representing the defence workforce. He was intelligent and prepared to negotiate genuinely. He was always focused on Australia's engagement with the Indo-Pacific and the important defence elements of that engagement. Indeed, that focus predated the current climate, and regional engagement was not seen by some as a strong priority. In this, he was ahead of his time. Post Defence, we were the other halves of a friendship between our partners. We've lost a truly great servant of Australia. Vale, Brendan. Condolences to Vaidehi and family.
I also want to speak about a young constituent of mine who is facing a great battle. Jamie Larsen wrote to me late last year to tell me about his story. Jamie, who is only 17, is suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscular degenerative disease. At present there is no cure. This insidious disease targets young men and boys, and Jamie was diagnosed when he was three years old. Jamie wrote to tell me that, thanks to medical breakthroughs, there are an increasing number of medicines nearing the end of their trials in the United States that look likely to receive FDA approval. But, without a streamlined approval process from the TGA, it might be years until DMD sufferers in this country get access to the medicines. Last year, the standing committee on health investigated this challenge. The member for Macarthur and you, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, both great advocates, have supported some changes in this space. As my friend Dr Freelander said:
We are at an inflection point in healthcare in Australia at the present time, because of the rapidly increasing treatments becoming available for conditions previously considered untreatable.
We need to do better for people like Jamie. We need the TGA to have a streamlined process for Australians to access new and life-saving medicines.