Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health


Interview with Virginia Trioli - ABC News Breakfast

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Topics: Turnbull Government providing $3 million for ovarian cancer project, Bill Shorten’s economic recklessness, Newspoll

The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now from Canberra. 

Greg Hunt, good morning.

Good morning.

So, what's the project that you're hoping to fund?

So the project is called TRACEBACK and we'll be announcing funding of $3 million today. 

But essentially it's about allowing women today to access the genetic material of their mothers or grandmothers who might have had ovarian cancer and might have had the BRCA gene. 

So one of the possible causes of ovarian cancer is the BRCA gene and we'll now be able to find out whether or not your parent or grandparent had the BRCA gene and that will allow today's patients to make decisions as to whether or not to have pre-emptive surgery or how they monitor the potential condition. 

In the end, it's about preventing 800 women from getting ovarian cancer and 2000 from getting breast cancer over the next ten years. An unbelievably important Australian medical breakthrough.

So just to clarify, does this mean that if you don't have a female relative who's alive and that you're therefore able to access their genetic material, you somehow get to access some other pre-existing genetic material?

So if you've had a relative that has had ovarian cancer, and in many cases they've passed away, that material was stored in a long-term project. There are about 1500 samples. Now, we're able to go back and test it to discover through the work of Peter MacCallum and others, whether or not it has the BRCA gene and that can give our young women today warnings that can save their lives in the future.

We had a very painful discussion earlier this morning with Eloise Babos who has had that pre-emptive surgery. She had a radical double mastectomy and is, in the future, having to deal with the issue of perhaps having fallopian tubes or ovaries removed as well. 

Is anything that the Government is looking to fund at the moment or investigate going to remove that as a real possibility and give them an alternative pathway where they don't have to undergo such radical surgery?

Well, we're always looking at new treatments and new drugs. I know there's $17 million of additional pharmaceutical benefit, ground-breaking medicine that came through in the last year. 

There's a whole new wave of what are called immunotherapies. Immunotherapies are…

Which don't suit everyone, of course.


Which don't suit everyone. It's a very difficult treatment that might not suit you if you have any immunosuppressant conditions.

No, it's about finding the right treatment for the right person and if you think of: where is medicine going over the coming decades? It's the ability to discover and then the ability to treat in a way which hasn't been available. 

These immunotherapies are allowing new treatments for old conditions, and then in addition to that, there's a whole wave that we're working on in Australia called genomics, which is the ability to diagnose your own DNA, discover a unique mutation or condition and then have a targeted treatment. 

So, it's an extraordinary new wave of treatments that can save lives. This is part of that incredible movement, and at the end of the day, if you think of nearly 3000 women who could avoid cancer over the coming decade, it's a very important day for ovarian cancer and reducing the incidence of both that and breast cancer.

Greg Hunt, I wanted to ask you a few other questions on some other issues. And on the issue of a business tax cut and wage growth and you would have seen Q&A last night; some of the major companies, of course, have already recorded spectacular profits of even up to 30 per cent and 40 per cent. If that doesn't already translate into wage growth, then why would any more profitability for those companies through tax cuts then create that growth?


Look, I know this is the Bill Shorten argument, and almost in exactly those terms.

Well, I'm going to jump in there, and I apologise, for this reason, Heather Ridout was making similar points last night. It's not just a Bill Shorten argument.

Well, I don't think that’s a fair characterisation of what she said, with respect. The critical thing is this – when you look at the OECD countries, we were one of the most competitive in 2001 in terms of tax. We are now at the bottom end; one of the least competitive in terms of business tax. 

That's why we are looking to reduce small business and business tax rates. The other way to put it is – what would happen if you added 10 per cent to company tax? Would that make people more or less likely? Intuitively, they would be less likely to invest in Australia and more likely to look overseas. 

There's a global movement here which is about being competitive, effective and we've just delivered 400,000 jobs through the changes and the economic environment which has allowed the private sector to create those jobs. 

That's what we're seeking to do – give people the chance to work and as you build that work, of course that leads, of course that leads, to better outcomes in terms of real wages. Real wages are the real deal. 

They are the fundamental thing that we're seeking to deliver and that comes from both productivity and having more people in employment. Put the two together and that's the best pathway and reducing small business and business tax rates is a fundamental part of that.

Well, you were saying that there was a mischaracterisation of what Heather Ridout was saying. She was saying that that very proposal – that very business tax cut proposal – was pitting employers against employees. She said it was not a unifying policy, it was a polarising one. So, she sees it as having one winner over another. 

I guess the broader question is: if you are able to get this through the Senate and if you actually get them through...

Well, that's why we're looking at both personal tax cuts and that small business tax cut and business tax cuts.

If you were able to get this through, what guarantees can you give us that wages are going to rise?

Well, I think that the critical thing here is, when you look around the world, if you have a country which is more competitive, you have a combination of things occurring – employment, investment and the ability to deliver outcomes in terms of real wages. 

It's very, very clear that the global data, the global trends, the global practice, is – invest, build, reward. And that's fundamental. 

And this idea that Mr Shorten has that profit is a bad thing – the alternative is unprofitable firms. And he now is using, almost, the old socialist language of the 50s, that profit is a bad thing. 

It's a whole lot better to have profitable firms than unprofitable firms. And he will rail against any firm that is unprofitable. He will rail against any firm that is profitable. 

We now have, arguably, the most left-wing Labor leader, not since Gough Whitlam but since Calwell. 

And what that really means is less jobs, lower wages, and less money that people will have in their pockets. It's a disastrous recipe for the future of the Australian economy.


Alright. Well, they're not in Government, you are. So let's see how you go with the proposed tax cuts anyway. 

I just want to switch to another topic if I can, quickly. 

Sure. Of course.

Do you agree with your Victorian Liberal colleague, Jeff Kennett, that former Liberal leader and former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, has been subjected to a witch-hunt? 

Look, I respectfully don't want to comment on an ongoing investigation. I don't think, for me as somebody who is currently in public office, that's an appropriate thing to do.

And just very quickly, there's an unavoidable doomsday scenario looming for the Government when Malcolm Turnbull hits 30 losing Newspolls – the figure he cited, of course, as the reason for dumping Prime Minister Tony Abbott. So, what should your party do when he hits this milestone?

Just keep going and I don’t accept any of the propositions that you've put forward that there’s unavoidable or so catastrophic…

What? That he said that 30 Newspolls was the reason for dumping him?

The fact is, yesterday, you saw a significant increase in our primary vote, an increase in our two-party preferred, an increase in the preferred Prime Minister, a gap of about 14 points between the Prime Minister up here and Bill Shorten down here in terms of preferred Prime Minister. 

And the more people see of the Prime Minister, the better the economic outcomes and the better the health outcomes and the better the infrastructure and investment outcomes and above all else, jobs, and the more economically dangerous and, frankly, weird Bill Shorten looks. 

He's not an alternative leader and he's just not the real deal.

Good to talk to you this morning Greg Hunt. Thanks so much.

Thanks a lot.


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