Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health


Interview with Natarsha Belling, Joe Hildebrand, Jessica Rowe & Carlotta - Studio 10

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Topics: New screening test for cervical cancer; royal commission into the banking sector

Now, to some truly shocking statistics. One in every 200 women will develop cervical cancer by the age of 75. It's also one of the most preventable cancers, and the way cervical screening occurs is changing. From tomorrow there will be a new test, which will be more accurate and require less often. To tell us more, we are joined this morning by Health Minister Greg Hunt. 

Minister, thank you so much for joining us on Studio 10. We just want to start with some breaking news from the Prime Minister, very, very big news, that he has ordered a royal commission into the banking sector.

Correct.  So it’s a royal commission, not just into the banks but also into superannuation and other parts of the financial sector. It’s been requested by the financial sector. 

But it also recognises that there’ve been some recent occurrences, there’ve been some findings, in particular through the process they’ve been settlements between the banks and the courts and of course there was the Commonwealth Bank scandal. 

So you put all of those things together it’s about creating stability in the Australian banking sector. We also want to ensure that where you have superannuation funds, and there’s a lot of union control, that people are getting the best value for money from that and that those funds are not being siphoned off.

The banks asked if there was going to be a commission of inquiry,  that it would replace the existing inquiries, I think there’s 12 ongoing at the moment, is that one of the things that will happen, that all those other inquiries will go to side and it will just be this one?

So the goal is for this to be the primary inquiry. I can’t speak for those that are not within the control of the government, I’ll leave that for the Treasurer to comment on that. 

But basically this is about ensuring that at the end of the day we’re protecting those who are most vulnerable and making sure that we’ve got the most stable system going forward.

And just quickly, sorry, we don’t have much time, but why did it take the banks to actually ask for themselves to be investigated for the Prime Minister to act? It looks like he’s sort of backed into a corner here instead of showing leadership again.

GREG HUNT:          
Look, I respectfully disagree. I think what we’ve done is make some very significant changes which have all been about improving the deal and the scrutiny that people have so as they’re best protected. This is the next step along the way. 

Moving now onto the cervical cancer screening. Tell us about that, what is new with this?

So it’s a new test which is a breakthrough. What it means is that it’s more accurate and it allows women to have earlier treatment. 

So instead of just identifying when you have cervical cancer the pre-cancerous stage can be identified.

That means you can get the treatment and we’re expecting that there’ll be a significant reduction in cervical cancer over time and it also means that once women have their next update, and it’s very important for every woman to go in and have their next update, it can be five years rather than every two. 

So for what’s a very confronting test, that means that women are more likely to do it but they won't have to do it as frequently.


There isn't then a risk with this new test that it might miss something over that five-year period?

No and the reason why, and this is all of the best medical experts in the country, but driven by Professor Ian Frazer who founded the Gardasil vaccine. 

But if you do that test now, it detects a lot earlier the risk of cancer and so we’re able to get in, diagnose and treat and that’s what’s really exciting, that we can treat women. 

So is this going to be rolled out in schools?

So in schools we have the vaccine. So there are really two things. What’s called Gardasil which is a cervical cancer vaccine and that’s working its way through all of the schools. As of next year there’ll be a new form of Gardasil which will increase the coverage. 

What that does it prevents the human papillomavirus which leads to cervical cancer and in addition to that we’ve now got the test which will replace the Pap smear. 

It’s the same collection technique, I’m sorry to say that’s a bit confronting, but it’s still a much, much more accurate and also a less frequent test. At the end of the day it will save lives. 

So Minister, in regards to this specific test, I know previously you could opt for, I think it was called ThinPrep which is actually a much more expensive test, so how much is this new test going to cost? Covered under Medicare or not?

It will be covered under Medicare, so that means that the vast majority of women will pay nothing for it.

So do you ask your GP about it and when is it effective from?

As of tomorrow this will be the new test that is put in place right across the country. So it will automatically be rolled out and every woman across the country between the ages of 25 and 74 will be covered.

And that’s often been the challenge with cervical cancer, is often the symptoms are very similar to what a woman experiences every month.

That’s true. Yeah, exactly right and I think we need to be upfront about that. If you do have concerns, please see your doctor. But also, if you need your test to be updated, please go in and do it. Very important.

Minister, thanks so much for joining us this morning. It’s much appreciated.

GREG HUNT:          
Pleasure. Thank you. 

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