Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Transcript - Bunbury doorstop

Thursday, 18 May 2017


Topics: $4.8 million new pathology centre at Bunbury Regional Hospital; Budget; PBS listings; WA shark policy

Well, I think it’s just fantastic to have the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt here in the southwest of Western Australia, particularly in this wonderful laboratory and the investment of the Federal Government in this.

Thanks very much to Nola, to Michael, to Francis, and Norelle for having us here. These new laboratories are about giving people better access to diagnosis, better access to treatment, and better health outcomes.

It’s part of what we’ve been doing with a $10 billion commitment to the Long Term National Health Plan and that includes, firstly, guaranteeing Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, supporting our hospitals, which is exactly what we are doing here with our $4.8 million commitment to a magnificent pathology centre that will help local residents, local patients, and the local community.

We are supporting and investing in mental health and preventative health. There’s a huge preventive health role in what’s being doing here by Michael, and Norelle, and Francis, and the incredibly skilled team at Bunbury Hospital.

And then we are also investing in medical research. And again, this is part of the grand national project on medical research.

So, I am delighted to visit this area with Nola, among with many others, who fought hard for the investment in the pathology labs and practically these labs are a modern guard and protection for those who might otherwise have health issues. It helps to save lives and protect lives.

Minister, you’re also in town I understand talking to a pharmacies as well talking about the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. What can we see in that space in regards to price drops?

Well, what we’ve done is have an agreement with Medicines Australia – the pharmaceutical company.

That will save patients and the Government $1.8 billion in medical costs over the coming five years and that’s money that will be reinvented into new drugs and lower cost drugs.

Let me give you an example. Entresto, which is for chronic heart failure, was listed on Budget night, that will bring the costs for 60,000 patients down from more than $2000 to either $6.30 or $38.80.

That is a real world example of the agreement with the pharmaceutical sector, lower costs and better access. Many patients with chronic heart failure simply would not have been able to afford Entresto. Now, there’ll be 60,000 patients who can access it at an affordable cost every year.

Is there any movement on the cost of Orkambi which significantly improves quality of life for cystic fibrosis sufferers?

Nola has been one of the great advocates and campaigners for that. I have spoken with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, they are pushing for the company to submit its test results.

I want to urge the company to do that. We’ve been in contact with them. At this stage there is no formal application, but I am hopeful that in the very near future that application with the latest results (inaudible).

I met a beautiful young family that Nola might want to tell us about. We’ve just listed Kalydeco, and Kalydeco was for cystic fibrosis, and this will help young children, two to six, have access to a drug that would otherwise have cost $300,000.

Now, I know that the PBAC is very keen on receiving a submission and as soon as we’ve got that submission we’ll assess it as quickly as possible, and I am hopeful that the company will put forward and that the PBAC will decide there’s (inaudible).

How many medications could potentially be affected under these measures?

So, what we are looking at is the price of potentially hundreds and hundreds of drugs dropping over the course of the coming five years.

As I say, the total savings is about $1.8 billion to the Commonwealth and to patients, and the immediate example is Entresto, which comes from $2000 down to $6.30 or $38.80.

Ballpark number for medications?

Well, all up we have over 5200 drugs on the PBS and I’m hopeful that many of those will drop down over the coming years.

Today the WA Liberal party passed a motion for the Federal Government to take great whites off the endangered species list as a way of trying to, I don’t know, try and lessen the number of attacks.

Now, you were the Environment Minister for quite a period of time, was that ever on your radar? Did you ever have any calls for that to happen while you were?

I’ll leave that for Josh Frydenberg, who is their Environment Minister now. But I know the stakes well, and I’ve seen Josh’s comments and Josh made the point very simply that right now the West Australian Government need only make the approach to him to seek the ability to take preventative measures.

So that option is available at this moment, on this day, at this time, and the West Australian Government for its own reasons is choosing not to take those measures.

I’ll leave that for them to explain, but I know that Josh has said this morning’s material that he’s ready and willing to assist the WA Government to take immediate action.

Was that ever something that was brought to you when you were Environment Minister?

Well, we did establish a process where there was the ability for immediate deployment and I made those authorisations.

So I actually issued authorisations for immediate action, immediate deployment. That was a facility which the previous Government, the West Australian Liberal Government, took up and used.

For some reason, which they’ll have to explain themselves, the current West Australian Government refuses to deploy the protections which are available this very moment.

In that space of environment, there’s been a report come out this week by NOPSEMA and it was revealed that there was a 10,500 litre oil leak offshore on the North West Shelf during your watch as Environment Minister. Is that concerning?

NOPSEMA was under a different minister, but anything which occurs should be reported and should be immediately reported.

My approach was to take an absolutely no prisoners view of spills on my watch in my time, and if someone failed to report then that should bring down full force of the authorities.

But NOPSEMA was created during your watch as Minister, effectively a one stop shop for approvals, including environment approval for the oil and gas industry. Has that kind of now backfired given that this has occurred?

If a firm has acted in secrecy, failed to report, then there is a very real risk that they will be in serious breach of laws with very high standards.

So if somebody confused, hides, obfuscates, and fails to report then the full force of the law should be brought down upon them.

NOPSEMA had kept this a secret, they’ve known about it for 12 months and it’s only just come out in a report this week. Are you saying that that’s exactly what they’ve done, or…

I’ll leave that to NOPSEMA. It’s not a body which has ever been under my control.

It was created taking authority from you as Environmental Minister…

No, that’s false. NOPSEMA has existed for many years.

But it’s taken extra approval authority for environmental approval before the oil and gas industry, which would’ve been sought from your department.

No, look, with respect what your setting out is something in relation to a leak. Those issues in relation to leaks have been under NOPSEMA control since establishment.

And do you believe that the Minister for Energy would have been made aware of the leak?

It’s not something I’m in a position to comment on. It was a matter in another portfolio, in another time, which has never been under my authority.

But my view is very clear, if a firm has breached its duties, they should be punished accordingly.

And should the issues be made public when they’re known? Do the public deserve to know?

I’ll leave that for the Energy Minister.


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