TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
RADIO 5AA ADELAIDE BREAKFAST WITH DAVID AND WILL
MONDAY, 15 APRIL 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s funding announcement to reduce elective surgery waiting times; Labor’s cancer care package; Labor’s funding announcement for the Jodi Lee Foundation.
DAVID PENBERTHY, CO-HOST: Because right now, Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek is on the line. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning David, and good morning Will.
WILL GOODINGS, CO-HOST: Thanks for joining us Tanya.
PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure.
PENBERTHY: Now, obviously, the Labor party is spruiking its cancer policy very hard, and there's no doubt it's a virtuous and well-meaning exercise. What do you make this morning though, of the modelling that's apparently been done by the Health Department showing, on the front page of The Australian, that it's $6 billion short funding-wise?
PLIBERSEK: Well it’s not modelling our policy. I've had a look at it, and it actually doesn't relate to our policy. I mean I could give you a technical explanation, but I think the simplest way of saying it is it's just Greg Hunt making stuff up.
PENBERTHY: So it's all on him, it's not on the Department?
PLIBERSEK: No, look, what they've done is they've assumed a certain cost for the cancer treatment, which is not what we're proposing to pay for the cancer treatments. What we're doing is saying, doctors will bulk bill - this is the amount that they'll get paid when they bulk bill – it’s higher than the amount that's available now, but it’s not the amount that Greg Hunt has modelled. I know that sounds weird and complicated, but I think the simplest way of saying it is he's modelled something that's not Labor policy.
PENBERTHY: OK. Well will you release your costings of the policy just to eliminate any confusion?
PLIBERSEK: It's very simple. We're proposing a new Medicare benefit item number, for gap-free treatment –
PENBERTHY: Sure, but you've had it costed? You can release the costings, and then there's no debate whatsoever.
PLIBERSEK: Well we've made all of the principles underpinning our calculations clear.
PENBERTHY: Okay, so one of those principles then that seems to be a little bit fuzzy still is whether the policy actually then relates to things that are follow-up treatments, for example, your treatment regimens, the services you have to get after you've been diagnosed with cancer - not just the principle stuff.
PLIBERSEK: Oh absolutely, so we've got - we've got separate policies that go to MRI treatments. So, if your - there's a lot of MRI machines around Australia that actually don't have a licence to provide cancer services - so you can pay for them out-of-pocket but you don't get rebate back. We're saying that every MRI machine around Australia, for certain items, will be able to give you a gap-free MRI scan; and with other types of cancer scans, because it's not just MRIs, there's x-rays and CT scans and others, we've got gap-free scans for those treatments as well. So, it's $600 million all up, eliminating out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging with up to, that means 6 million free cancer scans under Medicare-
PENBERTHY: I guess the question is - is it all diagnosis or does it cover treatment as well?
PLIBERSEK: Well, yeah it covers treatments as well. So, there's the times that you're going to see your oncologist, that you'll be able to go and see your oncologist without an out-of-pocket cost. There's the diagnostic imaging, there's $433 million is the cost of the free consultation with oncologists and surgeons for cancer patients, and then we've also said, of course, that every drug that is recommended by the experts will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. So, that again will cut out-of-pocket costs for cancer medications, so it's essentially millions of free scans, free consultations and cheaper medicines for cancer patients and, of course, if you're a public patient in a public hospital, the surgeries are free and we're also working with private health insurers to bring down the costs of private health insurance. So it's a $2.3 billion investment to dramatically slash out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients because we've heard from many, many cancer patients that they'll be - well, take this example, nearly half of cancer patients pay more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs through the course of their treatment and more than a quarter pay more than $10,000 out of their own pocket. So we have people trying to access their superannuation early, worrying about the cost burden on their family. We don't want them to worry about that. We want them to worry about getting better, so our effort is to take away these out-of-pocket expenses.
PENBERTHY: Just before we let you go, Tanya Plibersek, have you had the chance yet to respond to the comments by the Coalition Senator from Queensland, Matthew Canavan, over the weekend who compared you to Fraser Anning in relation to your comments about the Adani mine?
PLIBERSEK: It really is one of the most ridiculous comments I've ever heard. But can I just, before we go off cancer, one of the announcements - the new announcement today - is that we're providing $10 million to the Jodi Lee Foundation which was established by Nick Lee after he lost his beautiful wife, Jodi - only 41 years old when she died of bowel cancer. 90 per cent of bowel cancer diagnoses are completely curable if you get them early enough. So, we're investing $10 million, we're announcing that with Nadia Clancy, our candidate for Boothby today, to up rates of screening. You get a kit when you turn 50, I turn 50 this year, I'm going to get a little kit in the mail asking me to return a sample. It's very easy to collect a sample and we know that we will save, if we get screening rates up, we can save 83,000 lives between now and 2040. It's a very easy cancer to detect, it's very easy to treat. We just need people to return a sample when they're asked for it.
PENBERTHY: Yeah, absolutely. Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Labor Leader, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
PLIBERSEK: It's an absolute pleasure, any time.