Will Mark Butler survive a cabinet reshuffle?

3 minute read

Rumours of a reshuffle distracted from an announcement of an important bridging arrangement for cancer treatment funding.

Federal health minister Mark Butler was in Sydney today to announce a bridging arrangement that will allow the Commonwealth to pay for the cost of drug treatment for childhood neuroblastoma, but it was pure politics that got the attention.

Last week independent MP Dr Monique Ryan called for an early election in September over climate change policy and, although government insiders have downplayed that outcome, nothing has stopped the rumours of an imminent cabinet reshuffle, according to Nine Newspapers and The Australian.

Mr Butler may have wanted the focus to be on the 18 months of bridging funding for Norgine’s neuroblastoma treatment DFMO that the government will pay until the drug makes it through the TGA’s expedited pathway and PBAC process.

But, as press conferences go, the present journalists had other ideas.

“You’re expecting a cabinet reshuffle anytime soon, you’re hoping to hang on to health?” came the question.

“Well, that’s a matter for the Prime Minister,” said the straight-batted Mr Butler, who appeared alongside NSW health minister Ryan Park.

“We’re focused on our job every day, both of us feel incredibly privileged to be ministers in a portfolio as important to Australians as health.”

The reality is, even if PM Albanese does feel inclined to move Mr Butler on, he would be hard-pressed to find a better qualified health minister.

The two highest profile doctors in the parliament – assuming doctors make the best health ministers – are two of the Teal independents, Dr Ryan and GP Dr Sophie Scamps.

HSD has its hard-earned dollars on Mr Butler holding on to the health portfolio.

Meanwhile the DFMO bridging arrangement drew praise from the director of the Kids Cancer Centre, Dr Richard Mitchell.

“DFMO is a new treatment that is shown to decrease the risk of relapse by up to 50%,” he said.

“Prevention is the best cure in medicine and this treatment cuts the risk of the cancer coming back by half.

“Up until now DFMO has only been available overseas and family have had to spend a huge amount of time and resources trying to access treatment.

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“This initiative allows us to deliver cutting edge therapy to Australian children with cancer right here, right now. It means that families don’t have to spend huge amounts of time and resources and travel overseas to get access to therapy. It also provides equity of access, which means that we can make sure all Australian children with this condition get access to this treatment at their local centre.”

Mr Butler said the government could not “in good conscience stand by and not give these kids every chance of survival”.

“We know this will improve their rates of survival, and going on to live a long, healthy, happy life here in Australia, able to build their own families, able to get a job and build a life for themselves, and to enjoy the rest of their childhood with their loving parents and their brothers and sisters who are going through this process alongside them,” he said.

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