Till Death Do Us Part


“I, take you, to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

With the 37th annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras steadily approaching, I couldn’t help but find inspiration to write about a pressing issue and concern that our nation is facing. The ongoing debate in relation to same-sex marriage has become a controversial issue, particularly in relation to the segregation of society and the heightened political agenda of the Liberal Party, more predominantly Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The current marriage law that Australia abides by, the Marriage Act 1961, defines a common law marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” and goes on to further incorporate that a (homosexual) “union solemnised in a foreign country…must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.” A law which is segregating, restricting and discriminating Australia’s gay and lesbian community. A law, that, current Prime Minister Tony Abbott embraces.

It is no secret that the PM strongly opposes the concept of a legal union that is not between a man and a woman, a view that he directly imposes on us. Previously, Abbott has described himself as a ‘traditionalist’ in defending his political stance on the matter. His devout Catholicism and moral beliefs have become subjects of repeated media questioning highlighting the collision between the view of the public and his private life. Evident when he openly expressed that he felt ‘threatened’ by gays and lesbians.

It is the duty of an elected leader to best reflect the views of the nation and act accordingly. The Australian Marriage Equality Organisation current statistics state the 64% of all Australians support gay marriage and of these 53% define themselves as Christian. Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten has reasserted his support in a recent speech at a Christian conference, taking aim at those who “insult and demonise people on the basis of who they love” and further continues to suggest that “these prejudices do not reflect Christian values”. It is indisputable that Tony Abbott is clearly blinded by his ignorance and self prejudice.

The importance of this issue is materializing within society, primarily in the younger generations. The AME also presented statistics the 81% of young people people are in support of same-sex marriage. Eleven year-old Orlando Burcham from Newcastle addressed a letter to the PM questioning his position on the matter:
“You were elected to represent our country, not yourself. Just because you think it’s wrong, does not give you the right to make it illegal. Doesn’t our opinions matter to you? Just because you’re the Prime Minister, which by the way doesn’t not give you all the power.”

To which Tony Abbott callously replied:
“The Government supports the current definition of marriage contained in the Marriage Act 1961. Any change to this policy would be a matter for the Coalition Party Room.”

A current policy that is clearly outdated. A current policy that does not reflect the views of our nation. A current law which discriminates against society on the basis of who they love.

And I ask, is this issue too close to home? Information was released that Abbott’s own sister, Christine Forster, divorced her husband and found a new partner, in another woman. It was not long after this that he expressed on QandA that he felt “threatened by the queer community.” Added to this, daughters of the PM, support the cause describing the matter as “inevitable in generations to come.” The apple, in this regard, seems to fall exceptionally far from the tree.

Commentators have suggested that his supposedly “traditional” view would polarise homosexual voters, and I don’t doubt that they have. In the recent polls Abbott is sitting on 15%, trailing behind former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull on 44%. Turnbull supports abortion, stem-cell research and is a strong advocate for the legalisation of same-sex marriage despite also being Christian, though Abbott won’t even allow his MP’s for a conscience vote on the argument.

The Age published an article last month declaring that opposing gay marriage will decide the Prime Ministership for the upcoming coming election. The emergence of Malcolm Turnbull as a possible new leader would mean for significant developments for the prospect of gay marriage. Our best hope.

And for those of you that are endorsing this discriminatory law. Jim Jeffries has a few words for you:

It’s ironic to note that the Liberal Party’s home page currently quotes:

“Building a stronger Australia”

Under the currently law and Prime Minister, we as a nation are divided and the moral foreground that this country is standing on is beginning to crumble. In the world, twenty countries currently allow for same sex-marriage, why should Australia not be a part of that list based on the animosity of one man? The call for equality is loud and clear.

And do I take this man?

Mr. Turnbull; I do.

Mr. Abbott; I don’t.


Outdated Laws Killing Our Nation

It has been estimated that by the end of 2015, around 45 780 people will have died from a form of cancer, listing Australia as the highest age standardised incidence of cancer in the world. This means that there are on average, 125 cancer related deaths every day. In regards to the treatment of diagnosed patients, various government authority bodies have been established to regulate medicines available to the public. Currently, cancer patients in Australia are unable to have access to drugs and are being denied medical advances that have been approved in other developed nations. Why?

Unfortunately for the majority of diagnosed cancer patients in Australia, access to drugs and applying for required treatments isn’t as open-door as one would hope. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) provides subsidies for patients and currently provides 80% of all prescription medicine dispensed in Australia. This being so, there is an alarmingly low rate of approval for cancer drugs. Some patients have been recorded to waiting up to six years longer for approval and as a result, patients are dying earlier because of this delayed access to treatment. At the current time, there are roughly thirty drugs that are waiting on the PBS, where the government subsidises the payment so that the public will be able to afford the drugs. The severity of the situation? People cannot access the funds that will assist them paying for the drugs, so in all respect they miss out. The evidence? Of 13% of total healthcare expenditure, the PBS accounts for only 6% of these costs. We are being denied. To put it in perspective for you, a new form of immune therapy for lung cancer patients called the PD-1 inhibitor has been approved for use in Japan and the USA. Calculated at $12500 per month, through PBS subsidies the payment could be reducing to only a couple hundred dollars. That is, if the drug is approved.

The establishment of a statutory independent expert committee, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), typically recommends new medicines for listing on the PBS. However 80% of first applications for new medicines are rejected by the PBAC. Access to cancer treating drugs is restricted under approval criteria which outlines that the PBAC must take into account the medical conditions requiring treatment, clinical effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness and comparison to other treatments available. The interplay of these key factors means that access is inequitable and many have speculated that government intervention in the listing processes and challenges regarding reimbursement by the PBS indicate a policy shift towards “fiscal control rather than patient access”. Just recently, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cut the PBS budget by about 1.2 million dollars and as a result, is slowing down the number of drugs that are being approved to be a part of the PBS.

For cancerous patients that need access to drugs that are rejected by the PBAC, a separate government body has been enacted. All drugs available for distribution on the market must receive regulatory approval by the Therapeutic Goods administration (TGA) before it becomes available. It is responsible for ‘regulating the supply, import, export, manufacturing and advertising of therapeutic goods’. However, in relation to cancer, the TGA does not allow cancer drugs to be fast tracked for distribution and holds ultimate discretion into allowing drugs on the Australian market. As a result of this, our nation has fallen almost two years behind the US and nations of the European Union. But at what cost?

A Melbourne woman is paying $5000 every three weeks for a lifesaving drug because the PBS does not list the drug required for her illness, stage four cervical cancer. A close friend has been paying for her treatment, but Ms Prior said “the Federal Government should be footing the bill”, which has already hit $10 000.

In response to what seems to be an endless issue, an independent media group Cancer Drugs Alliance (CDA), made a submission to the Senate inquiry into the ‘availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia’ just last week. Added to this, they are also examining the operation of the PBS, arguing that it has become outdated and redundant, in relation to such drugs and primarily the impact of delays in the approval process.

Local Canberra woman, Louise Manoe is well aware of the inadequacies and faults within the system, her partner being diagnosed with advanced lung cancer just last year. After undergoing radiation therapy and applications for clinical trials, Louise was only the forty-eighth person to apply in the nation-wide inquiry to the senate  into fast tracking access to cancer drugs.

“I am concerned that the media isn’t even picking it up, we rely on the media to be the eyes of the world and see what’s going on and report it. They are meant to be informative…these things are happening in Canberra and people are unaware,” says Louise. “The only time it will be done will be before an election, and by that time it will be too late to do anything…people are dying.”

There are more than nine hundred cancer medicines available globally, and our nation is falling behind. We live in a world full of ignorance for a world of people not acting on their own behalf. We need to activate and legislate for people to survive cancer, because if we don’t we may as well just walk the plank.