Remarks, Jane McGrath High Tea - Sydney, NSW

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07 Jan 2022
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Mel. It's wonderful for Jenny and I to be here with you today. Can I, of course, acknowledge Margaret Beazley, Her Excellency, and her husband Dennis. Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, the British High Commissioner. Not a great time to be in Australia as the British High Commissioner, I must say. I had a bit of a text exchange with Boris the other day, he said he couldn't bear to watch. But this test is going a little better for them, than the last few. It's always a great series and we always enjoy that. To Louise Cantillon, the British Consul-General, to Nick Hockley, the CEO of Cricket Australia who's here with us today. To John Conde, the Chairman of the McGrath Foundation. And to you, Holly. Thank you for the tremendous job that you do running the foundation. You're a real ball of energy and you're doing a terrific job. To Tanya Buchanan, who's here today, the CEO of the Cancer Council and Kirsten Pilatti, who's the CEO of the Breast Cancer Network Australia. Dorothy Keefe who is the CEO of Cancer Australia. It's great to have all of you here. It's great to welcome Glenn and Sarah virtually to be here today.

But my particular welcome, before acknowledging country today, is to all of those who are here today who are fighting breast cancer as we speak. For those who are family members of those who can't be with us today because of having not survived breast cancer, to all of those breast care nurses that may be with us here today, but are more likely to be with their patients and providing them with that love and that care and that professional support that is so necessary and to all of those families supporting those with breast cancer now as we speak. I want to acknowledge all of you for your bravery, for your courage, for your love and your care and your hope and your faith and belief. Because this is something we beat together. No one beats it alone and great work, Holly and to Glenn and every one of the McGrath Foundation and the many other foundations that support those struggling and going through their battle with cancer, be it breast cancer, be it ovarian cancer, be it the many other forms of cancers, particularly those that impact on women and girls in our country. We than-, we think of all of you at this time.

Can I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and their elders past, present and emerging. Can I acknowledge any members of our Defence Force who are here today. And Veterans of our Defence Forces and thank you for your service.

It's quite an experience walking in here on Jane McGrath Day. The Sea of Pink. It just washes over you. Now I live in a house of two girls, Jenny, and we've got my mother in law with us at the moment and my mother is often there. So that's I see plenty of pink in my house. And this morning you'll be pleased to know Holly six tickets bought in the virtual stadium for all the women in my life, and I encourage everyone to do the same. But it is a wonderful experience, fills you with a great sense of occasion. I was watching the players coming on earlier as play was resuming and the ceremony of wearing the hats and placing them in the bowl and the respect. I know the players look forward to it. I think it was a very poignant moment and it's such a special day on Australia's calendar, not just cricket's calendar, not even just for the McGrath Foundation and the survivors of breast cancer. But it is a special day for Australia.

We know we're here for something very important. We all know someone affected by breast cancer and today we're here for them first and foremost, despite what’s going on out there in the middle, which is terribly exciting in that stadium. Despite another home Ashes triumph, cricket does pay deference to a higher cause today, and that's what makes the pink test special. It shows our heart, the beating heart of our nation. Australians turning up when it matters in a pink hat, pink tie, pink shirt. I suspect there's a few pink tutus and pink wigs. It's all out there today, and sometimes in an inelegant but nonetheless resplendent combination of all of the above for the most enthusiastic.

It's seemingly hard when someone we love tells us they have cancer. It's terribly, it's searingly hard when that occurs. And one of our premier winemakers, Tom Barry and his wife, Olivia, have gone through this recently, and many in this room will understand this. Olivia's mum Anne Marie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020, and ironically, it was just after Olivia's dad, Clive, had retired from a 35 year career as a breast cancer surgeon, and Olivia said the shock of it all made her and Tom think about how they could help other families from that same shock. Other families who are toughing it out in the same experience and the answer was right in front of them. They focused on what they did, what was in their hand that they could do something about, and that was to make wine. And they produced a special edition rose and its sale will fund a McGrath breast cancer nurse in their home state of South Australia. That's what I love about the practicality of Australian generosity. People just look what's in their hand and do what's in their heart. And that's how things happen. And I believe that's why we're all here today. I think Olivia, Tom and their family are definitely on to something. And I acknowledge Tom's brother, Sam, who has joined us here today.

We saw this through the pandemic, people helping each other each and every day as they are even now, for some that's business. For others, it's dropping off a meal or a care package, organising a community fundraiser, baking pink cupcakes, styling a wig for someone who's lost their hair or as we're doing today, demonstrating our support by our attendance. And it all helps not just the practical side of it. It helps the emotional support as well to let people know that they are not alone. For Jenny and I, being here with you and the whole team, and the McGrath Foundation is something very special and it's very important, particularly as we've gone through this period of the pandemic. I know Jenny would join with me in encouraging everybody to do this, as she often does in her own, in her own capacity, and that is to encourage people to go and get those tests to go and get those screens. COVID has- that has been one of the issues through COVID that we have been most worried about, that people won't go and get those screens that are all important and not just the screens for breast cancer, but frankly, the many other screens that are necessary and tests to look after your general health and well-being. And I'd encourage you to continue to do that even in the course of COVID.

For our government's part, our Health Minister, Greg Hunt, I believe, has done a terrific job here, keeping the lifesaving work of BreastScreen Australia going strong 30 years on and ensuring expanded access to the drug, he can pronounce all these drugs far better than I can, I can assure you, and he can do it without referring to names, but I just think he's showing off. So I'm going to read, Verzenio. Is that right, Holly? Verzenio on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, treatments that cost around $80,000 per course and are now just around $40 per script or $6.60 on a concession card. And that speaks, I think, greatly to the strength of our country that we can do that through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. And Professor Sherene Loi, a recent prime minister's prizes for science recipient, has channelled her brilliance into breast cancer research. Sherene has developed an immune biomarker test that's so effective it's now part of routine pathology reporting.

And the McGrath Foundation, as we know, does vitally important work. Their Breast Care Nurses Programme has helped more than 100,000 Australian families, with 52,000 of them supported by the Commonwealth funded breast care nurses. And when I became Prime Minister after a few years as Treasurer, we doubled our funding for these nurses. Our $41 million injection is bringing the number of Commonwealth supported rescue nurses to 102 by 2023, and there are currently 171 breast care nurses around the country. Now we want more of these quiet heroes and they are quiet heroes. They don't like attention to be drawn to them. They really don't. But they are heroes and they're where they need to be beside every woman facing their toughest days for no cost, without referral, public or private. It doesn't matter. They're there from the moment of diagnosis. Someone to ask questions of and to provide support. Someone to trust. The McGrath Foundation wants to see a nurse available to every family, no matter where they live, particularly out in remote and rural parts of the country, which I know is a passion of Glenn. No matter where they live or their financial situation. They need 79 more for this to be achieved, and they're on track to get there by 2025. And the government is going to keep, my government, is going to keep helping McGrath Foundation to achieve this important mission.

So I'm announcing today, from 2023 to 2026, we will commit a further $40 million to increase the number of government funded breast care nurses to 114.

Now, as Glenn and Holly each know, every time they come to see me each year, I don't think they've left empty handed once. And it's not just that Glenn used to be in the shire, because he's moved to Queensland now and we're still supporting and happy to be doing so now. Now that's not only good news for those women receiving treatment, it's good news for those registered nurses with a passion for this specialised area of care. It means more opportunities for them, which is great. And so that's our mission today to give generously to get more nurses on board and reflect on what we each do best so that we may be able to harness those skills and contacts to help some more.

Australians are hard to beat when it comes to answering the call from our fellow Australians. And we've seen it through one of the toughest times that our country has faced since the Second World War during this pandemic. But every day has been a war on breast cancer every day, regardless of a pandemic or other trials that the nation faces, the trials faced by those families experiencing the ravages of breast cancer. It has always been such a difficult struggle. The third day of this pink test provides another dose of encouragement. It demonstrates to the women we know and love who have breast cancer or may be at risk that they have this full support of Australia and their community and the best possible care available.

I also want to thank the players today for doing what they do best and for the pride they have in wearing those baggy pink caps. I know they love it and I want to thank Cricket Australia also and the SCG for their unwavering commitment to this pink test over the past 14 years, and particularly over the course of this pandemic, when we've all got very innovative and it was great to hear from Holly, how, and John, how the support from the McGrath Foundation has kept pushing through despite the challenges of putting this event on every year. To Glenn and Sarah, thank you for the passion that you continue to bring in to your entire family and the energy you bring to the foundation. Glenn is well known for being a great champion out there, but he's an even greater champion, I think in here, and well done, of course to you, Holly and John and the whole team for organising this today. So to everyone here today, thanks for your support. I wish you all the very best and have half of Jenny and I and my family to all of those families right now, to all those nurses out there caring for those with breast cancer and in particular those fighting breast cancer, against breast cancer in their own lives. Our prayers are with you. God bless you, and let's look forward to a great day. Thank you very much, everyone.