Photo: AAP Image/Paul Braven
PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you very much Adam and thank you for everything you’re doing here for us here today. Please thank Adam Spencer everyone.
Including being a part-time roadie there for a while mate, you’ve got a big future there as well. Can I particularly acknowledge Gladys Berejiklian the Premier of New South Wales, she’s here with us today, thank you Gladys, looking stunning in pink.
Can I also of course welcome our great hosts here, Glenn McGrath and Sarah. Let’s pay tribute to Glenn and Sarah for the wonderful job they do in leading the Foundation. I’m here with my WAG, Jenny Morrison, there she is.
In our house it’s wife and girls and our two girls are riding their bikes down the South Coast today, so they send their apologies. But this is a fabulous luncheon to be at. I remember not long after coming into Parliament, when Jane passed away. I didn’t know Glenn at the time very well. But both of us are from the Shire and I remember how it affected me. I remember how, I think, it affected blokes all over the country. Of course we had a sort of, we knew who Glenn was; he was the great champion and he is a great champion, he is. But in some way, shape or form, we all connected in some way to that great loss at that time.
We held special tributes in the Parliament to Jane, which I led as the local Member for Cook at the time, and it reminded us all - and it was a huge wake-up call - into the insidious issue of breast cancer and how it has affected so many lives, of so many Australians all around the country.
I didn’t come here today to talk about cricket - but I did appreciate the introduction Adam. I was bowled, but it was by Brett Lee – one of my mates said; “Oh you got clean bowled mate.” I said: “But it was Brett Lee for goodness sake!”
Hope. When I look at this logo here for the McGrath Foundation, that’s the word that springs to mind and how good is Sarah and how good is Rikki?
Because that’s why we’re here today, to support the hope that comes through what the McGrath Foundation does all around the country. I’ve got two young girls, Jenny and I have got two young girls and I’ve been blessed to have my life shaped by so many wonderful women, whether it’s Jen – we’re going on 29 years married next week –
Yeah she deserves congratulations, I assure you, for that. That is quite an innings. But my young girls, who are nine and eleven, Abbey and Lily, if I think about those girls what do I want for them? I want them to have choices in life. I want them to have opportunities in life, like every single little girl growing up in the country today and every woman in this country today; to have that hope, to have those choices. But there are important things we have to do. Of course - as our Government is - of course we’ve got to address issues on everything from parental leave and child care and we’re doing that. We have to address the very difficult issues of things like domestic violence, which we’ve done with some $300 million worth of investment right across the board. We’ve got to invest in economic opportunities, protect women’s super. We’ve got to do all of these things and we are doing all of these things. We’ve seen record jobs growth for women and the gender gap closing on pay.
This is all great. But for that hope to be there, there has to be the health and the wellbeing of women all around the country when they are facing some of life’s biggest battles and there is no bigger battle, as we’ve just heard from Sarah, than when you confront cancer.
We’re making a lot of progress in this area today. Some 90 per cent in fact, of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer now over five years are surviving. That’s a big achievement. It’s the product of many years of research, treatments and advances. Yet 50 women are still diagnosed with breast cancer every day across Australia, making it the most commonly-diagnosed cancer among Australian women. While it’s true that the current five-year relative survival rate is now 90 per cent, I think we can do better. I think we must do better and I think we will do better. We also must remember, it’s not just breast cancer that confronts women, it’s also issues of ovarian cancer as well, which is a terrible claimer of womens’ lives all around Australia.
There’s a programme we recently funded on top of the more than $100 million we’ve put into breast cancer research over the last few years; we’ve just funded a programme which is called Traceback. This programme, this research programme, it’s estimated that genetics and family history are responsible for at least 15 per cent of ovarian cancers . This programme is focusing on women who have previously not been identified as at risk and is an effort to reduce the incidence of ovarian and breast cancers caused by gene mutations. The results will help understand their risks and allow them to take preventative action. Now, Ovarian Cancer Australia believes that this work could prevent more than 2,000 instances of breast cancer and 800 ovarian cancers. This is important research work which we must undertake and we are undertaking. In addition to that, some $17 million was put into PBS medicines in the first Budget I handed down back in 2016/17, for the treatment of ovarian cancer. We have just recently put on a new listing for a drug called Lynparza for serious, high grade ovarian cancer, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer and that cancer has very low survival rates. That caused a reduction in the cost of those drugs for those women who are accessing those drugs, from $90,000 a year, to $40 dollars.
Now there are many things I think we can be very proud of in this country - but the fact that we can list these drugs on our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and because we’re a prosperous country with a strong economy and a sound Budget, we can invest in those lifesaving medicines. It makes all the difference.
In this year’s Budget, we invested $703 million to list Kisqali on the PBS. This is a breast cancer medicine, it’s life-changing. This will reduce the cost of that medicine from $71,820 a year for patients, now down also to just $40. This investment will mean more than 3,000 Australian patients with inoperable or metastatic hormone receptor positive breast cancer will benefit from the 1st of July last year. In addition we listed a new Medicare item on 1 November a few months ago, for 3D breast cancer scans, to help 240,00 women each year and a further Medicare item for the genetic testing of breast and ovarian cancer with a $1,200 Medicare rebate.
So we’ve been putting in. We really believe that we can do even better and today I’m announcing that we’re going to do better. As some of you already may have read, today I’m announcing that our Liberal National Government will increase the number of breast care nurses funded by the Federal Government to almost 100, with a funding injection of $27 million to the McGrath Foundation to support women with breast cancer.
We’re pleased to be able to do it but we can only do it because of the hard work of Australians. The Australians who have gone out there, started businesses, worked hard, generated the strong economy we have today. It means we can do this.
That’s what the strong economy is for; it’s for this. It’s for the same reason you’re gathered here today, the same reason Gladys and I often talk about this. It’s not an end in itself, it enables us to have a strong society where we can invest in the care and the medical needs of our people, whether they’re women suffering from breast cancer and living through and defeating breast cancer, as you’re hearing today from Sarah, or they’re young children dealing with other life-threatening diseases and conditions. A strong and prosperous society can win against these things and that’s why it’s so important we keep on that track. The doubling of funding will ensure 98 specialist breast care nurses by 2022/23. That builds on the $20.5 million already invested by our Government in this initiative. The funding will add another 41 nurses to the current team of 57 funded by the Government.
That means more than 30 specialist nurses will now be dedicated to supporting – I’m going to get this word right by the end of this speech – metastatic, metastatic – you can tell I’m not a doctor. But it’s important, metastatic breast cancer requires complex care and these nurses will now be able to spend more time supporting patients and their families, as you’ve already heard about how Rikki has done.
The McGrath Breast Care Nurse Initiative has supported more than 33,000 people since 2008 and was created to support women everywhere suffering from breast cancer, particularly in rural and regional areas. When I go out into rural and regional areas, there are so many places - particularly in New South Wales, but I know it’s all across the country - where people speak so fondly of the mercy and the hope that was delivered by the McGrath Foundation.
Now Jenny and I had the opportunity to host the Indian and Australian Cricket Teams at Kirribilli earlier this week and now I have the opportunity to say some things about Glenn McGrath. He’s a very special guy and it’s not just because he lives in the Shire – although that’s pretty good thing, as Glenn would agree.
For most cricketers, their record is found in the stats. But there are a few whose record goes well beyond the stats of what is earned out there on the field and Glenn has done that. He’s a great cricketer, he’s a great Australian and he’s proudly still calling my beloved Shire home. He played in 124 tests and took 563 test wickets – “Ooh Ahh!”
A tremendous record. But it doesn’t compare to something I’ve gotten to know about Glenn over the last decade; he’s a great dad, he’s a wonderful husband and he’s a true community leader. He has turned the most – I couldn’t imagine and I don’t want to imagine, but we have to – he’s turned one of the most terrible of circumstances in life that you could imagine, for him and his then very young family, the loss of his wife and mum in Jane, to something amazing. Out of the ashes he has built something incredible; he has made other lives better and the country loves him for it. So they should.
In closing can I thank all the dedicated staff and the volunteers at the McGrath Foundation who are here working amongst you today, for their hard work and outstanding efforts. Congratulations to you.
I particularly thank all those amazing breast care nurses all across Australia for looking after up to around 200 cases a year.
What you do every day is inspirational. And finally, thanks to all of you for being here and showing your support for the McGrath Foundation. As your Government, we’re putting in and you being here, you’re putting in. As a country, as a community, we’re having a go so those with breast cancer get a go.
Thank you very much.