Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

Environment Media

Doorstop - Canberra

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Topics: Launch of the National Childhood Heart Disease Action Plan; Labor’s plan to destroy private health insurance  

GREG HUNT:          
Today is a day of hope for parents of beautiful children with congenital heart disorder or heart disease. We know that eight children are born every day with it, that four children and four families lose their battles every week, that this condition is the number one cause of tragedy for families with children under the age of one every year.

So, this is the day where we say, it's time to change things. And we will be supporting the first National Action Plan for Childhood Congenital Heart Disease. 

And after that, once that plan’s been developed by Mark and the magnificent team at Heartkids and our extraordinary cardiologist and surgeons around the country, we will launch the fifth national mission under the Medical Research Future Fund and that will be in conjunction with the National Health and Medical Research Council. 

A national mission to help diagnose, treat, and ultimately defeat congenital heart disorder and congenital heart disease for children. 

And I want to acknowledge Steve Ciobo and Steve, of course, is Trade Minister by day but every day, he is Asher’s Dad. And, I think, Steve, if perhaps we hear your story briefly? If you don't tear up again.

Well, thank you, Greg. So often in this building we hear people say that they got into politics because they want to make a difference and I just want to acknowledge right from the get-go that Greg Hunt is making a difference in people’s lives. He is also saving lives by this decision. 

To know that congenital heart disease and the families that are affected, Greg’s already mentioned about how many families have to deal with heart disease, in particular, of course, the children, but also it’s all the bereaved families. 

Four families, parents a week who lose a child as a result of congenital heart disease. To know that the Federal Coalition is able to get behind this research effort, to make it a priority, to draw in philanthropic support, this is going to materially change the number of lives that are saved every single week. And I cannot thank Greg’s leadership enough for the difference this is making. 

I also want to acknowledge the outstanding work of Mark Brooke and Heartkids, and, of course, Australia's world class surgeons, researchers, health professionals, cardiologists, who are at the coalface of impacting on people's lives. 

Ultimately, all of this is about one thing. It's about a newborn baby or a child that’s got congenital or acquired heart disease and giving them every chance possible to live a normal healthy life or to get the support that they need to live the life that they have with congenital heart disease. 

And I just want to thank you, Greg, and I want to thank you, Mark. 

Minister, if you don’t mind speaking personally, do you mind giving me some insight into the impact it’s had in your family?

Sure. Well, like any family that's gone through this journey, my family was no different. At 20 weeks we had a scan that indicated that our first-born son had a thing called a transposition of the great arteries which is a complication of the heart which is, to use the medical lexicon, incompatible with life. 

And the only reason why our oldest son is alive today is because of the world class surgeons, paediatric cardiologists and others that saved his life. Today, he is a very healthy and happy nine-year-old. 

We also, of course, know that for other families, their journey is different. They have the joys of pregnancy, only to leave the hospital without a child. 

And that's where this money can really make a difference. So, we're mindful on sweetheart day, but this is about helping only not those families with children who have their heart problems corrected or assisted but also, as I said, the many families that deal with having to leave the hospital without their newborn baby. 

GREG HUNT:          
Do you want to speak, Mark, very briefly?

Certainly. Thank you, Minister Hunt, and thank you, Minister Ciobo, on behalf of the Heartkids community on what is International Congenital Heart Disease Day. 

This announcement of both an action plan and research commitment is a game changer for the 64,000 families that live with congenital heart disease and for those families, those four families every week that lose a child. 

This is an incredibly profound disease that impacts upon the physical, emotional, psychological and financial means of every family that it touches and Steve’s own personal experience is mirrored by thousands of Australians who are, today, out there raising funds so that we can ensure that that journey is made somewhat more comfortable. 

But, I can’t stress enough that the announcement of research and support for this disease is such an incredible announcement. It is translating and moving forward an agenda that we had for 10 years into a five year timeframe. 

Australia has some of the world’s leading cardiologists and surgeons who are gathered here today. They are backed up by world-leading research institutes and with this announcement today we can really transform the face of childhood heart disease in this country and truly stand tall in the international CHD community.

Can you just give us a little bit more detail on the funding for this, Greg?

GREG HUNT:          
Sure. So there are two stages. Stage one the National Action Plan, so, Heartkids and the extraordinary cardiologists and surgeons around the country will develop that Plan. Then Stage two is the National Mission. 

That will be the deep research funding. I think, to be fair, Mark and the team are talking about something in the order of $20 million to $30 million and that would be a mixture of public and philanthropic funding which is what we’ve done with the Australian Brain Cancer Mission. We’re up for that. We’ll do that. 

But they, to their absolute credit, want to do the National Action Plan so as every dollar is targeted and focused on delivering research and, ultimately, treatment. 

And let’s not kid ourselves, medical science is moving at an unbelievable pace. A generation ago, things might have been different in Steve’s family and in so many others. 

So, what was impossible then is a reality now, but for many parents there are still impossible conditions. But you know over the course of the coming five years, the coming ten years, we’ll be able to save more lives, we’ll be able to treat more kids, we’ll be able to give them a better quality of life. 

There are lots of things that happen in this place, but that’s real and this is important and it puts everything else into perspective. 

Barnaby Joyce (inaudible) leave next week (inaudible) should Julie Bishop be Acting Prime Minister?

I think, whilst we’re focusing on HeartKids and the reality of life it puts everything into perspective and I don’t want to derogate from that. 

I think, today, my focus is on long lives for beautiful kids. And as I say, sometimes in this building we need to put all of these things into perspective. 

That is deep and it’s profound and it’s real and I think that’s the sort of thing that I want to focus on today.

Minister, just on private health insurance? People are turning away from private health insurance in record numbers. Is the Government doing enough?

GREG HUNT:          
Well, we’ve just introduced the largest reforms in a decade which has produced the lowest change in 17 years. That compares with the figures under the ALP. 

When they were in government, they took an axe to the private health insurance rebate and, on top of that, they increased prices by 6 per cent, 5.8 per cent, 5.6 per cent and on. 

So they axed so much of the rebate for so many people they saw enormous prices rises. By comparison, whilst ours is the lowest in 17 years, it’s not the end of the journey. We’ve got to keep fighting every day to reduce those prices. 

Underneath the ALP plan is a plan for a 16 per cent price hike. What they want to do is take away the lowest cost level of insurance and if you take that away, the Deloitte modelling shows a 16 per cent increase. 

So they can pretend there’s a cap, in reality they’re promising a 16 per cent increase. 

They don’t believe in it. We do and we’ve taken steps, we’ll continue to take steps because families need every single dollar they can.

Thank you.


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