Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript: Doorstop: Melbourne: 22 March 2018: $2.5 million for new back pain research; Labor's taxpayer rort

Download PDFDownload PDF

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health


22 March 2018



Topics: $2.5 million for new back pain research; Labor’s taxpayer rort

GREG HUNT: I’m delighted to be able to support the Centre for Research Excellence into back pain and arthritis. This centre is about improving people’s quality of life, it’s about building on the research funding that we’ve provided in the past. It’s actually about opening the door to a dramatic further increase in funding as we build the Arthritis National Action Plan and the centre lays down its road map for Australia.

At the end of the day, lower back pain is more than just a pain in the back for so many Australians. Six million Australians have impacts on their quality of life, on their ability to work, and of course chronic pain can contribute to mental health impacts. Rachelle’s findings about the quality of care are important.

She’s already acknowledged that there has been an opioid crisis and we’ve taken steps to address that. The point about appropriate care, the Medicare taskforce, is currently considering it through a panel of the highest level medical experts in the country. But going forwards, what we see is more exercise, more treatment. That’s the way to assist with back pain and that’s the way to give people their quality of life back.

JOURNALIST: Six million Australians is an extraordinary amount. There’ probably lot of those people aren’t going to work complaining about it but they’re suffering through it.

GREG HUNT: That’s right. What we have is brave heroic Australians every day who, through their lives at home, through their lives at work, through their lives as parents, are living through and carrying through with arthritis and back pain and having to suffer chronic pain. And in many cases actually have diminished quality of life and diminished ability to participate in their private lives or their work lives.

So, this really matters. Yes, it’s $5.5 billion a year of impact, but even more than that, for six million Australians, it’s quality of life. And so, when we have the best medical minds in Australia focused on the care of six million Australians, we can really make a national difference.

JOURNALIST: The researchers have called for more funding because it’s a bit uncoordinated and stuff like that. Are you going to commit to more funding in addition to this?

GREG HUNT: Actually, there is more to come. This is a first step to actually provide a national road map on musculoskeletal and back pain activities. So, prioritising the research. That will come out of their work. So, they’re researching, but they’re also laying down the road map, along with the National Arthritis Action Plan, and so this is the first step of the next stage of medical research. And I’m very confident that there will be significant additional funds shortly.

JOURNALIST: How much government health funding do you think is wasted on unnecessary treatment for back pain?

GREG HUNT: So, I’ll leave that for the Medicare taskforce. They’re currently assessing the clinical treatment, the sorts of practices that Professor Buchbinder has raised in her Lancet article. But my focus is to ensure that Australians are actually given the opportunity to improve their health and recover from their conditions. If we get that, we’ll have lower health costs and higher productivity.

JOURNALIST: Important as well, with an aging population, these problems are only going to get worse.

GREG HUNT: Well, it is. We have the great success of our medical system that Australians are living longer. One of the challenges with living longer is that parts of the body, in particular the musculoskeletal system, degenerate over time. So, the more we can keep people healthy, the better their quality of life is, so those extra years of life are quality years of life.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you about some doctors providing treatment that’s perhaps harmful or ineffective?

GREG HUNT: So, we’ve recently launched a Medicare compliance task force, in addition to the Medicare review. The compliance task force and program is about making sure that, at the extreme end, that there are no dodgy docs who are making dodgy claims.

More generally, what Professor Bruce Robinson’s Medicare review is doing, is ensuring that we have, as our standards, the most up to date practices, as identified by Professor Buchbinder.

JOURNALIST: Slightly off topic, what do you make of the chaos that’s going on in our state government at the moment and do you think they should have to repay the taxpayer money that they used to fight it in court?

GREG HUNT: Well, the Ombudsman has found corruption and this government should be voted out of office. They deserve to lose office, they should lose office, and they should never, never be allowed near public money again. Of course they should pay back the public money they used to protect and hide the rorting of public money.

JOURNALIST: Why do you think it’s corruption?

GREG HUNT: I think this is a very clear finding from the independent Ombudsman that this is wrong, inappropriate, a corrupt use of public monies. Utterly at odds with what the Victorian public would expect of their elected officials.

And then, these ALP officials used public money to hide the previous rorting of public money. They should lose office and they should get out of the business of being in public life. All of those who are involved, they should just retire at the next election. Okay, thank you very much.