On My Bipartisan Soapbox


I am not a political animal, but I do have a number of friends heavily involved in politics on both sides of the fence. An election is in the air, both at Territory government and at the Federal level so there’s a more than the usual amount of door knocking and pamphlets in my letter box happening.

Yesterday morning I met the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at an informal coffee catch up down at the fabulously located Cornucopia Restaurant.

20160517_092822
Tina MacFarlane, CLP Candidate for Lingiari, Michelle Hanton (me) standing.                Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, PrimeMinister of Australia, Natasha Griggs MP, Federal Member for Solomon

It was interesting to watch the entourage at work, and the masses of camera’s that clicked away madly, especially around the babies! Admittedly, the kids were very cute and well behaved.

So what was I doing down there?

Well, the PM was with our current sitting member Natasha Griggs to promise a PET scanner for the Alan Walker Cancer Centre if they are re-elected. I was invited as a breast cancer survivor and the rest of the small group of guests were also those whose lives have been touched by cancer.

A PET scanner is a very expensive piece of equipment – millions of dollars – and we are the only jurisdiction in Australia without one which means patients need to travel interstate to access such diagnostic equipment.

The Opposition is similarly promising the same – so regardless of who wins the election, it seems like we’ll get the PET scanner. I certainly hope so.

The thing that I find so fascinating is that if both parties are able to promise a PET scanner, then how come it has not been provided to date?

I am not as closely involved in the advocacy world as I once was, so I am not sure of all the details around reasons why, but the one thing I do know is:

  • When people combine to make their voices heard things start to happen
  • Often it takes years of lobbying and advocacy to bring something to fruition
  • Advocates are vital and advocacy needs to be above politics

I did ask the PM if the felt the role of the advocate had made a difference to services. He confirmed that a patient centred approach was always the way to go – not exactly his words, more a case of me paraphrasing.

When I was diagnosed, almost 19 years ago, we had no oncologist, no breast care nurses, no McGrath Foundation and no Alan Walker Centre – today we have all of these things thanks to lots of lobbying and persistence all round by a vast number of individuals. Several of them have lost their battles and not benefitted from the improvements to services and conditions, but those that follow do.

From a personal perspective, the work I have done as an advocate has always been driven by the desire to see better services in place for my daughter and my nieces.

As we said back when we started our campaigning for breast cancer awareness (back in 1998), it’s not about us, it’s about those who follow down this pathway. It’s also about working in cooperation with others who will benefit from the same services.

Cancer is not about politics. It is bipartisan and does not discriminate.  Allocation of funding should come regardless of who wins office at the next election.

It is also my personal belief that we need to continue to develop advocates who will continue the fight to ensure cancer patients are provided with the best services and conditions possible.

Michelle

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