Senator Scott Ludlam has risen to the challenge and hopes to raise $10,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation in the World’s Greatest Shave.
He explains why this is important in the Senate.
Scott has been described as “the politician with such magnificent hair it has its own Twitter account” [Perth Now]. In fact, his hair has been immortalised as 'Gary' by Walkley-award winning cartoonist First Dog on the Moon. And whether or not it gets the chop is up to you.
Depending on your allegiances, you can donate to SAVE “Gary” – in which case the hair stays – or donate to SHAVE “Gary” and he’ll be obliterated under No.2 clippers. Whichever option raises the most money will prevail on Saturday 12 March.
Donate to save or shave “Gary the hair” by sponsoring Senator Scott Ludlam at worldsgreatestshave.com
Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia—Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (19:30 ): Tonight I want to speak about what haircuts and blood cancer have in common—not a lot, you might imagine at the outset. Last week I met a woman by the name of Serina Marie Doesn. In 2002, at just 29 years of age, Ms Doesn was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, which is a form of blood cancer. Her bright demeanour really belied the 14-year battle that she has had with this form of blood cancer. She has relied and drawn very heavily on the extraordinary volunteers and staff of the Leukaemia Foundation for support. She described to us the remarkable difference that the foundation has made in her life. It gave us a bit of an insight into just how many people in the Leukaemia Foundation helped her between emotional counselling and financial support, transport to and from treatments each month, accommodation facilities when she was flown to Melbourne for treatment and even really thoughtful things like care packages of fresh food and groceries delivered to her door after extended periods of time in hospital.
Serina spoke of the hope that she has that research undertaken by the Leukaemia Foundation would one day find a cure for blood cancer. Whether it be a greater understanding of the molecular biology of cancers or other forms of research, researchers are closing in on the development of many new drugs that target specific genetic changes which are associated with or cause these cancers. Leukaemias, as many senators know, strike the elderly. They strike the young. They strike children, men and women. It is an incredibly indiscriminate, complex and difficult thing to treat.
Some of the discoveries that the global research effort has uncovered and identified involve new approaches to cures or successful management of many cancers which thereby stop their progress or at least keep some symptoms under control. So there has been extraordinary progress in recent decades. Some of the new drugs may still have undesirable side effects, but generally they are far less toxic than the traditional heavy-duty chemotherapy that has been used in the past. While some blood cancers are still very dependent on traditional 'chemo', the new targeted therapies that are here now and many others on the horizon potentially reduce the side effects of heavy-duty chemotherapies. One of the things that I discovered is that there is no one leukaemia. There are a whole variety of different conditions that can attack people, without warning, as was Sarina's experience.
In 2015, the Leukaemia Foundation's research indicated the importance of clinical trials in providing patients with access to new therapies not yet reimbursed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Of those people who tried to access these new therapies, only around half of them succeeded. Of those who were able to access new therapies through a trial, three-quarters reported a beneficial response with no detectable disease or actually achieved remission.
Most new blood cancer medicines are very expensive and therefore beyond the reach of the average Australian. Most people can only afford these drugs when they are made available through the PBS. This is why the Leukaemia Foundation is calling on the federal government to improve access to new cancer drugs that are not available through the PBS and to continue to implement the recommendations of the Clinical Trials Action Group to ensure that more Australians have access to clinical trials and new medicines. Although survival rates are improving, blood cancers are the third-highest cause of cancer death in Australia. That is higher than better-known cancers like breast cancer and melanomas. More than 1,200 Western Australians will be diagnosed with leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma this year. That is 23 people each week just in WA. The national figures are roughly 10 times higher.
So what on earth does this have to do with haircuts? It is because this can happen to anyone—young and old—anybody can make a difference, including politicians. So I have signed up for the first time to the World's Greatest Shave. I am thrilled to have already reached my initial target to raise $5,000. I want to thank everyone who has contributed so far. I have started a fund. You can donate to a fund and I will shave my hair, or you can donate to a fund and I won't. I am pleased to announce that, as of tonight, the fund to shave Gary—that is probably a longer story—has reached $1,925. But the fund to save my hair has reached $2,887. There are three weeks to go before the big shave, and so I have obviously revised my fundraising goal. If colleagues want to help out with this haircut, they are welcome to do so. So please help me raise these funds by donating at the World's Greatest Shave.com.au. Senator Abetz, you are welcome to donate as well.