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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 120

Ms MACKLIN (5:34 PM) —I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak tonight on the Cancer Australia Bill 2006 to particularly highlight the outstanding services being provided at the Austin Health service, a major teaching hospital in my electorate which serves not only the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne but many people throughout Victoria and parts of Tasmania—and there are some specialised services that provide very important cancer relief to people in other parts of the country.

One of the terrific initiatives under way at the hospital is the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre. It is proposed that this be a unique, comprehensive and integrated cancer centre that will bring together research, patient care, cancer support and training. I particularly want to indicate my very strong support for this initiative. I know that a large number of people are barracking for it, but the most important person who is doing that is in fact the patron of this new initiative, Olivia Newton-John.

We expect that the total cost of this new centre will be $75 million for a new building at Austin Health. We anticipate that the private fundraising for this initiative should raise about $25 million, but that leaves the new service about $50 million short. We certainly have had some positive signals from other sources, and we hope that both the state and the federal government will see fit to come to the party to make sure that this outstanding service will get the funding it needs so that we can get this building under way.

It is already the case that the Austin Hospital is one of our nation’s busiest cancer centres, not only treating many people but also having a very significant partnership with the International Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. The Austin is, in fact, the largest international clinical research site for the Ludwig—that is worldwide—and is the major international production centre for new reagents to be used in clinical trials. One of the very important good news stories from this relationship between the Ludwig and the Austin is that we get more than $US30 million of Ludwig money coming in from the United States for this partnership. It is the case that these biological reagents are produced for countries around the world. I think we can see what a significant contribution this hospital and the International Ludwig Institute are already making.

 The Austin Hospital also houses a major research centre for positron emission tomography, otherwise known as PET scanning, and many people will be aware that this technology is now very important in investigating many cancers. We are very fortunate to have this technology at the Austin and for it to play a critical role not only in investigation but also in research. It is also the case that the Austin is a very big training centre for clinicians and researchers in oncology and in a large number of related specialties—cancer nursing, radiation therapies and other cancer and allied specialists. That is another reason why so many people at the Austin are very keen to get this new integrated cancer centre built on site, which will be called the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre.

We already have the north-east Melbourne integrated cancer centre program providing outreach radiation oncology and medical oncology services to Ballarat. I am sure that the member for Ballarat, who is here with me today, knows how critical that service is to her constituents. There are many other rural centres, particularly in Victoria, that also get the benefit of these outstanding services. There is a very large palliative care service, which is integrated with community providers to make sure that people who are dying of cancer are able to do so in the most homely environment but with the highest level of care available to them. I certainly know, from people who have spoken to me, about the very sensitive way in which that palliative care service does its job.

So we have at the Austin a very large cancer treatment service. It plays a national leadership role already in cancer research and the training of cancer health professionals. It certainly promotes and is intent on expanding integrated cancer treatment across the community and, as I said, in rural areas as well. That is why I particularly want to take this opportunity today to indicate to the government how worthy I think this project is of federal government support. I am sure that it will have support across the political spectrum. I do not imagine that anyone in this parliament would look at this issue from a political point of view. These are important services that are being provided to people, no matter where they live.

I certainly hope that, with support from the Victorian government and the Australian government as well as from those private donors who have already indicated their support, we can see this Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre established, built and operating at the Austin Hospital in the very near future. I thank the House for the opportunity to indicate what an important initiative I think this will be and I hope that it will receive a very positive hearing from the government.