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The House of Representatives Hansard, dated Thursday 4 April 2019.

Nev Black

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[The following article is extracted from The House of Representatives Hansard, dated Thursday 4 April 2019.

It was part of the budget reply speech given by Bill Shorten. It is not an endorsement of a political party in the soon to be held Federal Election. There are many other factors to consider before casting your vote.

A pdf file of the House of Representatives Hansard Thursday 4 April 2019 is attached. Nev]



Cancer is one of the biggest killers in our nation. Not for nothing is it called the emperor of all maladies. One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our life. One hundred and forty-five thousand of our fellow Australians are diagnosed with cancer each year and 50,000 die.

One way or another, we will all witness the ordeal. I saw it with my mum and her battle with breast cancer. Chloe and I have seen it with dear friends of ours—some old, some far too young. Cancer is frightening. It's isolating. It's exhausting. And all too often, though, it's impoverishing.

For so many people, cancer makes you sick and then paying for the treatment makes you poor.

I think a lot of Australians would be surprised to learn that all these vital scans and tests and consultations with specialists are not fully covered by Medicare. Instead, they cost hundreds of dollars, adding up to thousands out of your own pocket.

Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and most people pay over $5,000 for the first two years of their treatment.

One in four women diagnosed with breast cancer pay over $10,000 for two years of scans and tests.

Some men with prostate cancer are paying more than $18,000. And if you're in stage 4 cancer you have to quit work, so your finances are already under horrendous strain.

If you live in the regions, there are the added costs of travel and accommodation. Every year, 300,000 Australians who need radiology just don't get it because they can't afford it. That's 300,000 of us.

We're a smart country. We've got the best healthcare staff. We are a rich country. We're a generous country, and we are better than the statistics I read out. If someone you love has cancer, you'd sell the roof over your head. If it would help, you'd sell the shirt off your back. But should you have to?

Our fellow Australians pay their taxes to Canberra. You pay your Medicare levy. If I'm I elected Prime Minister, I'm going to make sure that the healthcare system is there for you when you need it most.

So tonight I'm announcing the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it: Labor's $2.3 billion Medicare cancer plan. To my fellow Australians, I'll explain what that would be used for. First, if we win the election, we will invest $600 million towards eliminating all of the out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging.

Over four years this will mean six million free cancer scans funded by Medicare—CT scans, PET scans, mammograms, X-rays and ultrasounds—reducing the out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients from hundreds of dollars to zero, and this will apply to MRIs too.

Today only half of the MRI machines—that amazing technology—in Australia are covered by Medicare. People in the bush and the regions often have to drive hours or pay thousands.

If we win this election, not only will we provide new MRI machines to communities where they are needed most; we're going to change the game. We will guarantee that every single MRI machine which meets national standards is covered by Medicare for cancer scans, full stop.

The second part of our plan is to deal with the cost of seeing a specialist. As anyone knows, treating cancer relies on a marvellous team of experts: medical oncologists in charge of your diagnosis and ongoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy, surgeons performing your operations and monitoring your recovery, radiation oncologists designing targeted radiation therapy plans to destroy cancer cells. These appointments are part of your weekly routine, often for years.

There are the trips, the waiting, the treatment, the recovery—thousands of dollars.

A new Labor government will invest $433 million to immediately cover specialist consultations for cancer patients. What this means over the next four years is that an additional three million appointments will be bulkbilled with no out-of-pocket costs, reducing what you pay from hundreds of dollars to zero.

The third part of our plan is our affordable medicine guarantee. Every drug recommended by the independent experts will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme—not just cutting the cost of your treatment; cutting the cost of your cancer medication too.

Cancer is a curse. I wish I could stand here tonight and guarantee that we'll find a cure for each cancer. No politician can give that promise. We will continue to support our scientists in their work. We'll invest in the research and the clinical trials.

Until the day that we find a cure, I promise the men and women of Australia this: under Labor, if you're battling cancer, you focus on getting well without worrying about going broke. I can promise you that, if you're in the fight of your life, a Labor government will be alongside you every step of the way.

To summarise what our first four years of Labor's Medicare Cancer Plan means for Australians: up to six million free cancer scans, three million free appointments with specialists and an affordable medicine guarantee. This is our vision for the future. This is our vision to build Medicare. We can pay for it and we can deliver it because of our reform decisions.


House of Representatives Hansard 4 April 2019.pdf

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