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Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane: ABC AM: 11 September 2018: domestic violence and mental health support services; $10 million to fund six new rare cancer and rare disease clinical trials; increasing the number of women in Parliament

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Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health


11 September 2018



Topics: Domestic violence and mental health support services, $10 million to fund six new rare cancer and rare disease clinical trials, increasing the number of women in Parliament

SABRA LANE: The federal government set aside $10 million to fund six new clinical trials to test new treatments for rare diseases and injury. Those include pancreatic cancer, traumatic brain injury, rare skin tumours, myeloma, myelofibrosis, and a pioneering new treatment for high mortality cancers. The money is from the Medical Research Future Fund and the Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now.

GREG HUNT: Good morning.

SABRA LANE: Good morning. Just before we go to this, on that story that we just heard - those three mass murder incidents in that state in recent times, what more can be done, do you think, to try and prevent things like this?

GREG HUNT: Well firstly, this is of course just an unimaginable tragedy and for the family and friends, an unimaginable agony. I met with Aaron Cockman recently, the father of the four children who lost their lives to their grandfather.

His view, which I think is the right view, is that there needs to be more family support services as well as better support both for women and for men - women who are potentially the victims of catastrophic domestic violence or any domestic violence at all but also for males who are not able to express themselves or seek help.

So we boosted funding to Lifeline by $33 million. We are also looking at other options for family support and additional actions, but at the same time, the protection for women against domestic violence must be absolutely paramount.

SABRA LANE: So potentially more announcements about that?

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

GREG HUNT: Correct. There's both mental health side and then there is the family protection side, and I think we need to work on both fronts because what we see coming out of Western Australia is just completely and utterly tragic and cannot be allowed to continue. SABRA LANE: To your announcement today on pancreatic cancer - it's the tenth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, sadly claiming around 3,000 lives a year - what difference do you hope that this trial can make?

GREG HUNT: Very simply, we want to increase survival rates, and by increasing the survival rates, of course, we increase hope and we give people time.

What we see is that in the particular pancreatic cancers that are being targeted in this trial, which is part of a broader package of six trials for rare cancers, low survival cancers, and also conditions that have high mortality rates, that we are giving people the opportunity to be part of trials, which can help them but also help all patients.

So, when you look recently, we've brought on new medicines for breast cancer, Kisqali. That's something that I know the new Prime Minister Scott Morrison was very involved with.

All of these have come about from trials, so for every patient that's involved as part of a national push to give people higher survival rates, then they benefit, but potentially, they open the pathway to all patients in that particular category benefiting.

SABRA LANE: Traumatic brain injury - the most common causes are from motor vehicle accidents, bike accidents, assaults, and sporting injuries. What will these trials do?

GREG HUNT: So what the trials are looking at is a particular neuro-targeting - so being able to diagnose a person's very specific condition and therefore to look at the way of treating them over and above what's already done. We have some of the best neurologists, the best brain surgeons in the world but we now have new techniques for diagnosis and from that treatment.

Let me give you an example, not so much in the head injury side but in the cancer side - the Zero Childhood Cancer Initiative: a year ago, a beautiful little girl called Ellie was facing a tragic diagnosis from a tumour in her chest.

There was a last roll of the dice where her DNA was sequenced, they discovered a rare mutation, and they were able to discover an emerging medicine, which was being trialled in the United States. We got that to this young girl. She's now the face, a year on, of the Zero Childhood Cancer program. So this personalised diagnosis, where you can discover, whether it's an injury or whether it's a rare cancer, the cause, and therefore targeted treatment, opens up a whole new realm of medicine.

SABRA LANE: Getting back to the traumatic brain injury, and it's a delicate question, what about the quality of life questions here? Prolonging someone's life ultimately may not be the best thing to do.

GREG HUNT: Well, with all of the different fields of medicine, what we're discovering is that there are ways to protect and then to recover - not in every case, that is absolutely true.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

Sometimes, catastrophic brain injury is unrecoverable, but our job, our task, is to give people the best treatment and the best options.

We are already seeing, whether it's in the work of the extraordinary stem cell team at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, whether it's in the precision medicine work at the Garvan Institute, or this particular trial, that there are ways of recovering from organ damage, which were never previously available; and if we fund that as a country, which you can only do when you've got a very strong economy, then the result is that patients have better lives; families have longer lives together; and as a society and the community we’re stronger.

SABRA LANE: To issues here in Parliament - your Victorian colleague, Julie Banks, has made some rather serious allegations about bullying during the recent leadership challenge. How do you view those comments?

GREG HUNT: Look, I think that they need to be investigated fully and thoroughly, which the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is doing and has committed to doing. And …

SABRA LANE: Did you witness any of that behaviour?

GREG HUNT: Look, it’s not something that I have seen myself or heard of, but it's absolutely critical that anyone, anywhere, in any work environment, should never be subject to that, but should always have access to make claims if they have concerns and have been subject to it.

SABRA LANE: Is it time for quotas to boost the number of women in all ranks within the Liberal Party? Craig Laundy says that's probably about time and a quick fix.

GREG HUNT: I want to see more women in Parliament for the Liberal Party and supportive people such as Nicolle Flint, Jane Hume, Sarah Henderson, Kate Ashmor, who was just selected in what was the Melbourne Port seat for the coming election, Katie Allen.

I want us to aim because it's a deep personal commitment for a 50 per cent goal, a 50 per cent target. I think we can get there on merit as we’ve just done in the health space where three quarters of women appointed to the National Mental Health Commission, something I announced last week, three quarters of members were women and 62 per cent of people appointed to the Cancer Australia board were women. Amazing professionals but our task is to actually get these amazing people into the party and into Parliament.

SABRA LANE: You backed Peter Dutton for prime minister and resigned as health minister. Why did Malcolm Turnbull have to go?

GREG HUNT: In the end, every person made their own decision but collectively, there was a loss of support. The result is that we now have, in my view, [inaudible] ..

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

SABRA LANE: So there’s a loss of support but it wasn't a majority support in the end - why did he have to go?

GREG HUNT: Ultimately, each person formed their own view…

SABRA LANE: And your view?

GREG HUNT: …as to the future, and my view was that there was a collective loss of support. I respect everybody's differing views and that was backed up by the result.

But looking forwards, which is actually what the Australian people want us to do, they want us to be focused on them, whether it's in terms of medicines, electricity prices, or above all else, getting them a job, which allows them to have better wages; which allows them to have more to spend; and keeping their cost of living down.

I think where we’ve got to with Scott is we have somebody who has the best chance of holding the nation together, of bringing it together, of representing all the different arms of the party since John Howard, and I think he's made an amazing start.

He gets the economy; he gets security; and he gets the sense, above all else, of who Australia is and who Australians are.

SABRA LANE: Greg Hunt, thank you very much for joining AM this morning.

GREG HUNT: Thanks Sabra.