Transcript: Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News - 10 July 2024


Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

10 July 224

Topics: Announcement that children with high-risk Neuroblastoma will be given access to groundbreaking treatment DFMO, the Government’s aged care reforms, Aged Care Sustainability Taskforce


TOM CONNELL: Joining me now is Shadow Health Minister, Anne Ruston. You spoke to this and supported it. I think just important to note, you know, there's politics and throwing around stuff, but to hear from Tyler there still going through this battle with his young son, what this could mean for him and other Australian families.

ANNE RUSTON: Well look, it was absolutely welcome news today that the Government has eventually decided to fast track DFMO, which is the drug that will hopefully save Hazzy's life and many other young children's lives. So it was really great news. But, you know, full credit to all of those amazing families because it was the advocacy of the families of these children who currently have high risk Neuroblastoma that I think eventually forced the arm of government. And we've seen today an announcement, and it's purely as a result of the huge amount of hard work that they've done over many, many months.

TOM CONNELL: I guess there are a few things you get across your desk. I mean, you're not the Minister, but the Shadow, where you think money's limited but just got to make this happen, because there's no other option, and it's such a simple treatment. And I'm sure it'll be available here down the track. That's what we're hearing, I'm not sure what you're hearing, that eventually it would just be fully subsidised here. But in the short term, having to fly overseas with an immuno-compromised child just to take some tablets, that was the craziness of it.

ANNE RUSTON: Look, it was crazy. And of course, these kids have already been through rounds of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, which means they're immuno-compromised. So the last thing that we need them to be doing is sitting on a plane or having to travel, but I think it really brings into focus the need for us to make sure that, particularly when you're talking about children and young children like this, that we have the fastest access and the safest access, of course, to these lifesaving treatments. Because, in a first world country like Australia, it's simply not good enough that we have had to fight so hard for this one treatment to come online. And so, I'd be asking the Government to have a look at their reviews that are currently underway, that we still haven't seen the results of - the HTA review - and look at how we can get fast as possible, safe access to treatments for Australians, because I think most Australians would expect that. But right now, we know that that's not happening.

TOM CONNELL: Aged care is an interesting area, and I'm just curious as to where negotiations are at between you and the Government. The Government announced reforms and part of those were more of a user pay system. Whether you're in the aged care system or getting help from home, having people that can afford it pay more. Where are negotiations at on that?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, we've been having good-faith negotiations with the Government for a few months now. But one of the things that we've been saying is that we think that this discussion shouldn't just be had behind closed doors with the Opposition. It needs to be had more broadly with the wider community. I mean, Australians need to understand what possible proposals are going to be put on the table, and particularly older Australians and their families. Because, you know, a conversation behind closed doors does not get well informed, and I've always been a great believer that if you've got the people who are impacted by the policy at the table when you make the policy, you invariably get better policy. So we're calling on the Government to get this out there, let the public see it, and then we'll have a conversation about how we can amend whatever they are proposing so that we get the best possible outcome.

TOM CONNELL: So are you being told the figures, where it would kick in? You're not allowed to share it? What's the situation there? Normally you don't have an issue with putting it out there.

ANNE RUSTON: Well, I mean, I think there's a broad range of reforms. We saw the Taskforce report came down, even though it was delivered to Government in December, we didn't see it until March. There were 23 recommendations. And, I think, you know, in principle they were recommendations that deserved and warranted further consideration. What we're waiting for is the Government to actually respond to those recommendations, which is sort of somewhat ironic when it was actually the Government's own Aged Care Minister that chaired the Taskforce. So, one would imagine it shouldn't be too hard for the Government to respond - Make that response, and then let's have a conversation about, you know, what the Government is proposing to do. So I think it's, you know, we'll continue to have those good faith negotiations and discussions behind closed doors, but I really do think the time has come for Australians to be brought into the conversation.

TOM CONNELL: Where do you think the line roughly is? I mean, at what level is it reasonable to ask people to be paying more for their own care? What's rich?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, I think one of the things that is really important to understand here is it's a really, really complex environment. And one of the things that I know that older Australians and their families always say to us is it's just so complicated. So, I think there are a few things that need to have the ruler run over this. One is around simplicity, so people can understand. We need to provide certainty to the sector, because we need the sector to start building more infrastructure. We need to make sure that we're getting older Australians access to home care packages in a timely way. 68,000 people currently approved for a home care package don't have one. There are just so many moving pieces here, and I think to have a discussion about one part of it, without actually seeing the whole proposed reform on the table, doesn't actually do justice to what I think is a really important reform.

TOM CONNELL: Well, it will affect a lot of people. Yeah, once it's out there, I guess then we can discuss, you know, various things including at what level people might have to pay a bit more of their own way. Anne Ruston, appreciate your time today. Thank you.

ANNE RUSTON: Thanks, Tom.


tags:  news feature