Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:34): Can I start by congratulating the member for Shortland for bringing this matter before the House? As a former chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, she has been a passionate advocate for so many conditions that would otherwise fly below the radar and would not be brought to the attention of this parliament, were it not for the tireless work of the member for Shortland.
Like me, she represents an electorate which has long drawn its wealth and its identity from industrial activity and coal mining. Tragically, what comes with coal mining and with a lot of industrial activity, particularly in the years when we were growing up, are the associated dust diseases. When you come from a region like ours you are acutely aware of the impact of dust diseases and lung related diseases on public health—whether it is an uncle, a neighbour, a family member or somebody you know there will be somebody who is touched by it. In my own district there is dusty lung from coal mining, mesothelioma and any of the other asbestos-related diseases which are all too common in the neighbourhoods around which we grew up.
We take the view that people are entitled to healthy workplaces and healthy lives. The houses they live in and the places they work in should not be killing them. That is one of the things that propels many of us into parliament. So today we mark the end of Lung Health Awareness Month, held during November and which creates an awareness of the plethora of lung related illnesses that impact on millions of Australians, many of which have been outlined by the member for Hasluck before me.
Lung Health Awareness Month provides an opportunity to increase awareness of the prevalence, symptoms and treatments for lung diseases. They include lung cancers, cystic fibrosis and asthma; infectious diseases such as influenza and bronchitis; and, as I have mentioned, the dust related diseases. Lung Health Awareness Month aims to promote awareness of these illnesses and diseases to the wider community, sufferers and healthcare professionals. This is because, as Lung Foundation Australia states, lung disease does not discriminate; it affects young, old, male, female, smokers, former smokers and non-smokers—never smokers. It affects us all.
Currently, lung disease contributes to more than 10 per cent of the overall health burden within Australia. There were around 20,000—closer to 21,000, actually—deaths in 2012 and a quarter of a million hospitalisations over the period 2011-2012. There were more than 1.4 million hospital patient-days over that same period. It may surprise many to know that that represents around 14 per cent of all deaths and about three per cent of all hospitalisations—five per cent of patient-days within hospitals alone. At least one in 10 Australians is going to be affected by a lung disease. That is higher in the fibro suburbs of my electorate and for those who are working in heavy industry or in mining.
New initiatives launched by the Lung Foundation Australia, such as Just One Breath—just one example—are an organised commitment to explore the extraordinary things that can be done through just one breath. It is about sharing a message with constituents, friends, family and other loved ones to get everyone thinking about their own lung health. And it is about ensuring that we get access to early diagnosis and early treatment.
When you think about the importance of early diagnosis and early treatment, you have to ask yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker: what work does a price signal on seeing your general practitioner when getting medical imaging such as a lung X-ray or a blood test have to do with having a lung disease? What work does a price signal have? I would argue, and I am sure the member for Shortland and the member for Wakefield would argue that it has absolutely no work to do whatsoever. Anybody who knows anything about this area knows that getting to see your doctor, following up on a course of treatment, ensuring that you have the X-rays, ensuring that you have the blood tests and ensuring that you have that course a treatment which is necessary to getting something early and treating it is what we need to be doing.
So I congratulate the member for Shortland and the member for Wakefield, who I know are passionate about this area. The GP tax has no work to do and it is why I hope that this week the government will scrape that barnacle from its hull.