Broken election promise for newborns

A woman holding a newborn child.

*Speech delivered on 21 June 2023.

We're supposed to have world-class health care in Australia. 

Instead, we're putting newborns at a disadvantage before they've even had a chance to start their lives. When a child is born, they take a heel prick test to screen for serious conditions, but what your child is tested for is different in every state and territory. 

I don't think it should be that way, and apparently Labor agrees, because in the election last year they said they would introduce a national screening program and increase the number of conditions tested from around 25 to 80. They even called on the coalition to match this policy. This was all supposed to start from 1 July this year.

Guess what? It's not happening. 

Testing for 80 conditions on 1 July has become testing for 32 conditions by the end of the year. The government has also committed to a two-year review process for an extra 15 diseases but has said nothing about implementation. That's not what was promised. 

For every day that these 80 diseases are not screened for, up to five babies miss a life-changing diagnosis. Imagine what it's like to see your child deteriorate before your eyes as you search for a diagnosis—a diagnosis that could be made with a single heel prick.

I know this from personal experience. One of my children had the heel prick at birth. We carry the cystic fibrosis gene, so he now carries that cystic gene. There is a one in seven chance that, for every pregnancy that he has—or that I had—the child will get cystic fibrosis. 

I'm asking that the testing for 80 diseases at birth is implemented as soon as possible, because it's a life-changing event. Nobody wants to see their children struggle or even pass away at an early age from a disease that could be preventable.