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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23323


Mr RUDD (3:37 PM) —I support this motion and the efforts by parliamentary friends in the fight against Parkinson's, a disease which afflicts too many Australians. It afflicts too many people in my home state of Queensland and it afflicts my own mum.

Many of our engagements in the debate about the health system in this country and the diseases which our health system is required to confront are shaped deeply by our own families' experiences of them, whether it is cancer, dementia—as has been discussed today in the context of well-known Australians—or Parkinson's and other diseases.

My own mum was a very good and active septuagenarian. She had been very active on the hospital auxiliary at the Nambour public hospital for some 20 years as a hospital worker on a purely charitable basis. It was only when she was in her mid-70s that she became aware she had Parkinson's. It is always more difficult for those who are trained in the medical profession—as is my mother, who was trained as a nurse—when they begin to experience the symptoms which they know clinically point to that particular disease.

That was six or seven years ago. My mum, together with the 11,000 other Parkinsonians in Queensland, continues to fight the good fight, as do the many tens of thousands of Parkinsonians across Australia and the families that support them. It is not an easy road but were it not for the assistance of organisations such as Parkinson's Queensland it would be a much harder road. Parkinson's Queensland employs two full-time staff: one in administration and one in the area of education. This is supposed to cover the whole state of Queensland.

When we look at the resources of peak bodies like that we as a community and a country need to reappraise our priorities because, if these peak bodies which provide valuable information to Parkinson's sufferers across the state and their parallel bodies across the country—my colleague from Nowra just referred to her local body in that part of Australia—were not there performing their current function, it would make life even harder for the families of Parkinson's sufferers. The provision of new information on medical treatments, how best to access the newest and best drugs on the market, and the risks associated with them is very important for families to make informed decisions.

Support from organisations like Parkinson's Queensland is one thing, and I commend them formally in this parliament for the work that they do. But, beyond that, there is the work done at the hard edge of the scientific coalface—that is, the research which is being done not only worldwide but also here in Australia in the whole field of neurological diseases. In Queensland we are blessed with the likes of Dr Peter Silburn, who practises at Wickham Terrace in Brisbane. He is one of the world's leading analysts in this area and has pioneered new treatments for people who suffer from this and related neurological diseases.

It is important for the parliament to recognise not just the contribution of such individuals but the basic need for more research dollars. Parkinsonians feel as if they are often the poor cousins when it comes to the delivery of the research dollars to this particular medical ailment. I think they are right. Cancer sufferers legitimately command a large proportion of the medical research budget, and we all have direct experience through our families and friends of the ravages of that disease. One does not faintly suggest any diminution of effort.

We argue for an increase in our collective national research effort so that people like Peter Silburn, who are pioneers in the field of new surgical interventions and in the application of new drugs and therapies, can be given the resources with which to work. I commend this motion to the parliament and the member for Gilmore for having moved it. We are all moved by a spirit of common humanity and personal and family experience in wanting to see more done for the tens of thousands of Parkinson's sufferers across Australia today.