Press conference in Gold Coast, QLD

FRIDAY, 19 MAY 2023


MURRAY WATT: It’s a delight to be at the Medical Super Clinic at Benowa here on the Gold Coast for what’s a really important commitment for women in particular on the Gold Coast and the entire local community.

You will have seen that in last week’s Federal Budget increasing health care support for Australians was a key centrepiece with extra incentives being given for GP practices like this to provide bulk-billing services, which obviously helps the GPs to do more of what they love to do but also helps to bring down people’s medical costs at a time when people are feeling cost of living pressures.

But importantly for the Gold Coast there is some particular funding in last week’s budget to establish a new endometriosis and pelvic pain clinic right here on the Gold Coast in Benowa. And I’m very pleased that this practice was successful in its application to host and operate this clinic here on the Gold Coast.

I’ll introduce Dr Loon shortly and thank him and his team for having us along here today, and also Jess from QENDO, an advocacy and support consideration for women with endometriosis. This is something that I know a lot of women have campaigned for, for a very long time and the Albanese government obviously wants to support women in every possible way, whether it be employment, their health services and many other needs.

As Jess will probably tell you, one in nine Australian women experience endometriosis and pelvic pain, and providing these kind of specialist services locally near to where people live provides them with the care that they deserve. I was actually saying before I really noticed when I promoted this clinic on Facebook recently it got real traction because – and it really brought home to me exactly how big an issue this is for women here on the Gold Coast who’d been able to get some services through GP clinics like this one, but now will be able to get even more. And this is one of 20 such clinics that we will be funding across the country with four others in Queensland. And this clinic alone will be receiving about $700,000 to support an expansion of its equipment and services to help women experiencing endometriosis and pelvic pain.

Happy to take some questions at the end, but why don’t I hand over to Dr Loon to tell you what it means for this clinic. Over to you.

DR KENNETH LOON: Yes, thank you, Murray, for giving me this opportunity. We’re very fortunate to be a part of this program. The funding from the Commonwealth government will allow us to increase the number of services that we provide to patients in our local community. We know that pelvic pain does affect one in five women at some point in their life and up to one in 12 men actually, and one in nine women have endometriosis. And so by – through this funding we’ll be able to increase the number of services that we provide and we’ll be able to do so in a multi-disciplinary team-based fashion and also integrated with the local health services and primary health networks to really, you know, increase the number of services for patients of our community. So I thank Murray for giving us this opportunity. Thank you.

MURRAY WATT: Thank you. Over to you, Jess.

JESS TAYLOR, CEO QENDO: Well, this is really welcomed news for patients living with endometriosis and pelvic pain on the Gold Coast. QENDO has heard for decades the need and the call for additional services, and to talk with a GP who actually gets it. We still have people living with period pain so painful they’re missing work, they’re missing school. And so this need for services in local areas is so required, and we look forward to working with the service and also expanding more of these services, because this is just the start.

Endometriosis affects one in nine people, just as common as asthma and diabetes, yet many people don’t know the name. And so we’re really excited to welcome this service and the investment from the Albanese government. And we look forward to helping even more people.

MURRAY WATT: Any questions for anyone?

JOURNALIST: Doctor, I just had a quick question about what the actual services are, and is it GPs and specialists or just GPs? Can you tell us about what the expanded services will entail?

DR KENNETH LOON: Yes, so patients will be able to come in for initial assessment, which is GP led and with nursing support. And those services will entail a comprehensive assessment as well as an assessment of their pelvic floor to basically try to better delineate the causes and sources of their pelvic pain, which is often a chronic condition. And through that we’ll be able to streamline further management options depending upon the clinical needs of the patient, which may involve specialist practitioners at that point in time but as I said, importantly allied health professionals, including pelvic floor physiotherapy, for example.

MURRAY WATT: So this is one of four such clinics, endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics that will be spread throughout Queensland with additional ones in Cairns, Morayfield and Bardon in Brisbane. So that will be good to be able to provide that kind of service across a wide range of Queensland locations.

JOURNALIST: Did the government know about the Chinese announcements to lift the ban on Australian timber before yesterday, or was it as much a surprise to you?

MURRAY WATT: Well, the government was advised on Thursday night through our embassy in Beijing and also by the Chinese ambassador here in Australia that China had made this decision. I understand that it was raised by Trade Minister Don Farrell in his recent visit to China in the official meetings that he had. And there were some positive signals that this could be resolved, but it’s really terrific to see it resolved so soon after that visit occurred.

JOURNALIST: How soon can Australian exporters get their product to China, and is there a backlog?

MURRAY WATT: We’ll be working on this immediately from here, and there are a couple of extra little steps that have got to be taken. The way it works with exports to China is that we have to supply a list of establishments that are licensed effectively to supply these exports to China. And so we’re in the process of putting that together at the moment. There’s a couple of other little quarantine things that have got to be resolved, but clearly this is really positive news for Australia's timber industry that a really important export destination has reopened.

JOURNALIST: But sort of ball park, what might you be looking at in time?

MURRAY WATT: We would expect in the next couple of months to see some real change and those imports starting to happen. And that’s good news for Australian exports, for Australian jobs and for more wealth into our country. And I think, as I say, it’s a really positive sign that there’s another step forward in the trade stabilisation with China. It is an important market. We welcome China making these moves, and we now look forward to seeing similar moves on a few other commodities.

JOURNALIST: How much money has Australia lost since the trade sanctions were imposed?

MURRAY WATT: Well, prior to China suspending timber imports from Australia it was our largest export market and was valued at about $560 million in the lead-up – per year in the lead-up to that suspension. We have been able to find some other markets in the intervening period, but they haven’t replaced China. Very often China is prepared to pay a premium for Australian products, including timber. So I think it would be fair to say that we’ve lost, you know, in the hundreds of millions of dollars as a result, so it’s good to see that turn around.

JOURNALIST: You’ve just sort of touched on this, but is it a promising step towards getting all of our trade disputes resolved with China?

MURRAY WATT: Yeah, I think it is. We’ve now seen Australian coal, copper, cotton and a couple of other things get back into China, and now we’ve got some movement on timber. Clearly, we’ve got some movement also happening around barley, and we now would like to see movement as well on things like wine. I think one of the other important things about this decision is that the reasons that China had given for suspending timber imports were quarantine and biosecurity-based reasons. They are the same reasons China has given for cutting back on some of our beef exports as well as a couple of other industries. And we’d like to see a similar approach taken with those sorts of industries to open that up too.

JOURNALIST: And are you expecting that to happen?

MURRAY WATT: Yeah, I mean, all of the signals that we get from the Chinese government are positive that they understand as we do that it’s in both countries’ interests to eliminate these trade impediments and stabilise that relationship. It’s mutually beneficial, and that’s why we’ve always said we’d rather sort these things out through dialogue rather than having to take WTO cases. No worries.