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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 6013

Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (20:23): I rise to support this motion brought before the House by the member for Shortland. If we look at the motion, it demonstrates that we in this place can play a leadership role. It recognises that bowel cancer can develop without any early warning signs. It indicates that, if a bowel cancer is detected before it spreads beyond the bowel, there is a 90 per cent chance of the patient surviving more than five years. It talks about the fact that regular screening every two years for people over 50 can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to 33 per cent. It recognises that 12,000 suspected or confirmed cancers will be detected through free screening, which will save between 300 and 500 lives each year. It further commends the government on its four-year commitment to provide an extra $49.7 million boost for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

This is a disease that can affect all people. I often reflect that sometimes people believe that we parliamentarians live in some sort of other world and are prevented from being exposed to the challenges that confront ordinary families. But for the Jenkins family, back in November 2006, the reality of bowel cancer hit when my wife, who was being investigated for a completely unrelated condition, after having a colonoscopy was told that she had a cancer. We were very lucky, because it was found very early on. She is one of those cases that shows that if you can find it early enough, before it has spread, this is the type of disease you can get on top of. What it clearly illustrated to us was the importance of making people aware that by a series of fairly simple tests—look at the types of screening tests there are, and the sophistication of the various scopes that can be done now—there is this opportunity to take measures that can ensure that somebody does not die from an insidious bowel cancer.

So I found it very interesting, and I thank the Parliamentary Library for coming up with some figures that illustrate the type of uptake within the municipalities in the Scullin electorate. I was surprised to see figures showing that, over the three municipalities, the range of people who actually participate from the pool of those who are invited to participate range from 42.3 per cent in the case of Banyule City and 40.5 per cent in Nillumbik Shire to only 32.5 per cent in the city of Whittlesea—2,200 of 6,900. Even more concerning were the rates of tests that actually showed a positive result. In Banyule the rate was 7.4 ASR per 100, in Nillumbik 7.3 per 100 and in Whittlesea nine per 100. If you then looked at the deaths from colorectal cancers between 2003 and 2007 in these three municipalities, the average annual rate in Banyule was 9.4 per 100,000, in Nillumbik was 7.7 per 100,000 and in the City of Whittlesea was 13.1 per 100,000.

One of the things that really concerns me is that Whittlesea, the municipality that has the lowest participation rate, has the highest number of deaths and the highest risk as shown by the number of positive tests. I think, for a lot of reasons, that that is perhaps not a surprising participation rate; it just indicates that there are pockets of the people we represent, pockets of the people for whom we put in place screening systems like this one, who need to be properly informed of the benefit. So I take this opportunity, the opportunity of Red Apple Day, to say, let's make sure that we educate people on the importance of undergoing the proper screening tests for bowel cancer.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms O'Neill ): Let the record show that the member for Scullin did indeed bring to the chamber a red apple in recognition of the day!