STATEMENTS - Women's Health Week

I would like to support the member for Macquarie's comments around the Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain Clinic for women in Western Sydney. In terms of the work on endometriosis, the support has always been bipartisan, I think, in this place, and it's pleasing that we are making some progress in ensuring better treatment and care for women who suffer so much pain from this condition.

I'd also like to consider the responses of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister for women. I'll take a couple of moments to highlight some of the measures the coalition took, when we were in government, to improve the outcomes for women's health. These measures include over $100 million for improvements to cervical cancer and breast cancer screening programs to help detect these life-threatening cancers earlier, which can lead to improving survival rates across the nation. There was almost $100 million for new tests on the Medicare Benefits Schedule for pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos for specific genetic abnormalities. The work that is being done in the genetic space is extraordinary. I hope that all levels of government continue to invest in this technology in the future and ensure that Australia is at the forefront, globally, which I know we are.

The coalition provided almost $50 million to support the mental health and wellbeing of new and expectant parents, including funding for the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia helpline and, by working to deliver universal perinatal mental health screening and improved data collection across public antenatal and postnatal care sessions. I'm very passionate about mental health and investment in this space, particularly for women who are in the stage of their lives when they're thinking about having children or are having children and also as they go through menopause and experience mental health issues during that time—a time which is coming, as the member for Macquarie said. Menopause is something that we're talking about more, and it's coming more into the light. It's something that we should be seriously addressing.

Other coalition measures included almost $27 million to provide support for people with eating disorders and their families, noting that women account for almost two-thirds of eating disorder diagnoses; $22 million for additional gynaecology items on the MBS, including for assisted reproductive technology and long-term reversible contraceptives; $21.6 million for women's health initiatives, including Jean Hailes for Women's Health and the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia—again for endometriosis; almost $20 million for the PBS listing of Oripro to prevent women going into premature labour; almost $14 million for the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance to reduce preterm birth rates; and $6.6 million for Breast Cancer Network Australia to operate its helpline, provide rural and regional information forums and extend its consumer representative training programs.

I now come to this year's budget relating to women's health. I've discussed certain points previously during consideration in detail on the budget, but I want to emphasise that the coalition is strongly committed to health, to improving the health, safety and wellbeing of Australians, and to ensuring that all Australians have affordable access to the health care they need across our country. As we have stated, we will support good policy put forward by this government in this area, but, equally, we will not hesitate to hold the government to account where we feel they could be doing better.

A measure that has our support is the provision of $16.8 million to introduce a new MBS item for a test that determines a patient's risk of recurrent breast cancer. We know that genetic testing is a way to increase early diagnosis of breast cancer and to increase breast cancer prevention for at-risk women, so it's great that this women's health item will be listed on the MBS. The absence of key funding for ovarian cancer is a concern, though. We were disappointed to see that the government didn't come to the table on Ovarian Cancer Australia's budget submission. We would like to see that rectified in future budgets. As the opposition leader stated in the budget reply speech, the coalition has a proud record in committing funding for endometriosis, stillbirths, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. In continuing this strong support for women's health, the opposition leader committed to investing $4 million in Ovarian Cancer Australia so that they can continue their critical work of supporting women battling ovarian cancer and also supporting their families. Additional support in this area can make a serious impact on the lives of those battling this horrific cancer.

Further, a coalition government will allocate $5 million to review women-specific health items on the MBS and corresponding treatments on the PBS. The review would identify what best-practice women-specific medical services are not listed and ensure clinically effective services and treatments remain affordable and accessible. Additionally, it will help to determine where additional funding is required to better support women's health and wellbeing. It is really critical that Australian women have affordable access to the health care they need, which is why it is, as I said, a disappointment that the government didn't provide the support for the brave women across the country battling ovarian cancer.

We know that the health of Australian women and girls is also critical to their overall wellbeing. That's why, when we were last in government, we provided significant funding to initiatives supporting the maternal reproductive health of Australian women and girls that would support the National Women's Health Strategy 2020-2030.

We understand that one in nine Australian women are affected by endometriosis, which can affect women's health, fertility, education and employment outcomes. I noted that the member for Macquarie, in her speech, talked about the announcement of an endometriosis and pain clinic in Western Sydney. I'd like to add that the coalition invested $58 million to support women to get diagnosis earlier and to ensure women with endometriosis have access to resources to make informed choices for their own health, and doctors will be provided with guidance on the best treatment plans. The coalition was pleased to see this government commit to funding our $58 million package for endometriosis and pelvic pain, which is what we're seeing come through with these pain clinics across the country.

We recognise how important this investment is for women who need it. Another key measure the coalition will take to the election is a return of something I'm really passionate about: the Better Access program for the 20 Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions. This is a significant measure for women, given the rise in mental health issues, particularly mental health issues impacting girls. According to Beyond Blue, in Australia, during their lifetime, around one in six women will experience depression and around one in three women will experience anxiety. Women also experience post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders at higher rates than men. These are alarming statistics, which is why the coalition wants families to be able to have more government assistance for girls and women and wants to help them financially when they're reaching out for help. In a cost-of-living crisis the government should never have taken away the mechanisms to support families and women in accessing mental health treatment.

In Women's Health Week, I also want to give a special shout-out to all the female workers on the front line in the healthcare, medical research, technology and medtech sectors. They do such an amazing job, and I'd like to say that we can't thank you enough for your contribution to the betterment of women's health across this country.

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