Landmark PBS Listings to reduce the cost of medicines for Australians

From 1 October 2021, Australians with multiple sclerosis (MS), multiple myeloma, macular degeneration and keratitis will have access to new and expanded medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), reducing the cost of treatment for patients and their families.

Kesimpta® (ofatumumab) will be listed on the PBS to treat patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Relapsing-remitting is the most common form of MS with 70 to 75 per cent of people with MS at some point suffering from the relapsing-remitting stage of the disease.

MS is the most commonly acquired neurological disease in younger adults. More than 25,600 Australians live with MS and more than two million people are diagnosed worldwide. The average age of diagnosis is between 20 to 40 years and on average three times as many women have MS as men.

Without PBS subsidy, around 500 Australians might pay more than $28,000 per year for treatment.

Also from 1 October 2021, subsided access to Beovu® (brolucizumab) will be available for the first time to treat people with wet age-related macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic disease of the macula. It’s the most common macular disease in Australia. AMD is responsible for half of all blindness and severe vision loss in this country.

Patients who have not responded to first-line anti-vascular endothelial growth factor treatment will now have access to this new treatment option. Without PBS subsidy, around 12,800 Australians might pay more than $8,800 per year for this new treatment option.

The PBS listing of Pomalyst® (pomalidomide) will also be extended from 1 October 2021, to include use in combination with bortezomib and dexamethasone for the treatment of relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma in patients who have been previously treated with lenalidomide.

Representing Australia’s third most common blood cancer (after lymphoma and leukaemia), approximately 18,000 Australians are living with multiple myeloma at any given time. Myeloma is a type of cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Without PBS subsidy, around 210 patients per year might pay more than $72,600 per course of treatment.

Ikervis® (ciclosporin) will also be made available from October 1 2021 for the treatment of severe keratitis with dry eye disease. Severe keratitis is inflammation of the cornea and is characterised by damage or lesions on the corneal surface.

Dry eye disease is a common ocular condition that is characterised by dryness of the conjunctiva and cornea. Patients with dry eye disease experience reduced tear production or tear film instability, which leads to discomfort and visual disability.

Without PBS subsidy, around 7,500 patients might pay more than $900 per year of treatment.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said these medicines will improve thousands of lives and without listing, the medicines would cost Australians suffering from these conditions much more.

“Since 2013, the Coalition Government had approved more than 2,700 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $13.8 billion,” Minister Hunt said.

“Without PBS subsidies many Australians would be thousands of dollars out of pocket, instead they’ll only pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card for these medicines.

“The Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.”

These PBS listings have been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

City pledges continued action on climate change

City of Newcastle continues to demonstrate its leadership in addressing climate change, with Councillors voting to join the international Cities Race to Zero and Cities Race to Resilience campaigns at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said that by taking the Cities Race to Zero and Cities Race to Resilience Pledges, City of Newcastle has reinforced its stance on the urgent need for real action on climate change and a commitment to action in the lead up to the International Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in 2026.

“City of Newcastle is a leading government authority in Australia with regard to implementing strong and decisive initiatives to address climate change, which is why we have already formally committed to the principles and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement,” Cr Nelmes said.

“We’re committed to a sustainable future for our city, and to becoming a net zero emissions city by mid-century which is in line with global efforts to limit global warming. City of Newcastle is leading by example and will reach net zero emissions for operations by no later than 2030.

“By taking the Cities Race to Zero Pledge, we join over 750 global cities who are advocating for stronger action on climate change and resilience, and commit to continued climate change action in the lead up to COP26.”

The international Cities Race to Zero campaign is an avenue for local government to showcase climate leadership, advocate for and commit to stronger action in support of Race to Zero, a global campaign which rallies leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

Cities Race to Resilience is a sister campaign to Race to Zero which focuses on building resilience to climate change and provides an opportunity to showcase action within a local context.

City of Newcastle is a member of number of committees and programs formed to prioritise climate change action. Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes Chairs the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and City of Newcastle is a founding member of ICLEI, a founding member of the Business Renewables Centre, a member of the Cities Power Partnership and recently became a Pioneer City for ICLEI’s CitiesWithNature program.

Cities Race to Zero aligns to Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) commitments and the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) GreenClimateCities program, and allows City of Newcastle to report its climate change action progress through an existing CDP-ICLEI reporting mechanism.

In January 2020, City of Newcastle became the first New South Wales Council to be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity and the city’s Climate Action Plan 2021-2025 was endorsed by Council in July 2020. The Climate Action Plan acts as a roadmap for achieving positive impacts such as increasing clean energy, continuing resource efficiency, reducing emissions in our supply chain, supporting sustainable transport and addressing important issues such as setting targets for net zero emissions and building a vision for a low carbon economy.

City of Newcastle on track to appoint contractor for Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade

Tenders for a construction contractor to complete the Stage 1 upgrade of Newcastle Ocean Baths have closed with City of Newcastle on track to appoint a head contractor at the October Council meeting.

The Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade is a staged project with the pools, promenades and pumps prioritised for Stage 1 while the upper concourse and pavilion building will be considered in Stage 2.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said a less visible but highly important part of the Stage 1 work is the upgrade of the pumps which will see three new submersible pump sets constructed adjacent to the existing pumpstation, which is being retained as a heritage feature.

“Newcastle Ocean Baths is approximately four times the size of an Olympic sized swimming pool and holds around 6.5 million litres of water,” Cr Clausen said.

“Currently the pool is operated by being filled and drained once a week with no or limited circulated water in-between when the oceans are calm, as is often the case during peak-use periods in summer.

“A new pump system with capacity to turn the pool water over in six hours will significantly improve water quality and clarity.”

City of Newcastle Acting Director of Infrastructure and Property, Joanne Rigby, said six pumping system options were considered before a final wet well structure was specified to deliver improvements to health and safety and equipment reliability and maintainability.

“There is a lot to consider for infrastructure located in a sea water environment. Currently we need to replace the pumps every three months, however we expect to get up to six years of life from the new pump system,” Ms Rigby said.

“Safety for our pool maintenance team will also be improved with the ability to operate the pump system remotely, minimising the need to access the infrastructure which, in the current location in large swell events, is hazardous or just not possible.”

The new pump system will be located underground to the north of the existing pump house with only the pumpstation access lids being visible.

City of Newcastle is committed to funding the renewal of Newcastle Ocean Baths and has directed the $9.5 million recovered from the sale of the Frederick Ash Building towards the project.

Stage 1 of the Newcastle Ocean Baths upgrade also received $3 million in funding from the NSW Government under the NSW Public Spaces Legacy Program.

Newcastle 500 to return as Supercars season opener in March

Newcastle’s economy and COVID-hit tourism industry is set to benefit from the season opener of the 2022 Supercars Championship series converging in the city for the Newcastle 500 on 4-6 March.

The flagship event was rescheduled from the final event of the season to the first race of the 2022 season, following a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

Newcastle-500.jpg

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the confirmation of the event date provides certainty to local residents and businesses and is a welcome boost to the economy and racing fans’ spirits following prolonged COVID-19 restrictions.

“Newcastle and the Hunter enjoy a huge racing supporter base and I’m confident they will love to attend the season opener,” Cr Nelmes said.

“This is a welcome announcement for our residents and businesses which confirms that the Christmas and January holidays will be unaffected by the track set-up.

“Newcastle’s beaches will remain accessible to the public during the track installation period in February through the usual road connections, and during the three-day event by following Bathers Way from King Edward Park.

“Businesses can also now prepare for the post lockdown busy trading period over the summer and hopefully enjoy the extra visitation and economic benefit that Supercars brings.

“Event organisers will work with NSW Health to deliver a robust COVID-safe event that adheres to Public Health Orders to ensure the safety of our community.”

The five-year agreement to host the Newcastle 500 concludes with the 2022 event, which was discussed at last night’s Ordinary Council Meeting.

City of Newcastle will undertake a full analysis of the event, including economic benefits to the region and impacts on residents.

A report will come back to the elected council to determine any extension beyond 2022.

Like with previous events access to the beach and facilities will remain open both during a shorter bump-in and during the event. Council’s expectation is that the event organisers will minimise disruptions to residents and beachgoers in the lead up to the event.

City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath said talks are ongoing with Destination NSW and Supercars Australia regarding the future of the event in Newcastle.

“We look forward to reviewing the outcomes of the new time slot and Newcastle being host of the first race of the season,” Mr Bath said.

“Newcastle has cemented its rightful place as a premier events destination and we have our eyes set on an event-led economic recovery, with an impressive line-up of potential major events being planned for 2022.”

NSW gives nation’s biggest energy project the go-ahead

New South Wales is leading the nation’s charge towards a low-emissions energy system after the NSW Government approved stage one of a $1.8 billion transmission line that would link NSW and South Australia’s energy networks for the first time.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said stage one planning approval had been granted for the NSW Western Section of Energy Connect, a 900-kilometre transmission line that would run from Wagga Wagga to Robertstown in SA, with a spur line to Victoria.

“Today’s approval is a major step towards facilitating the delivery of what would be the largest energy transmission project undertaken in Australia in more than 30 years,” Mr Stokes said.

“The first stage will run from the Buronga substation to the Victorian border and create 600 construction jobs and inject $418 million into our regional economy.

“To get to a low-emissions energy system our nation needs robust and reliable transmission infrastructure and that’s why we declared Energy Connect Critical State Significant Infrastructure in 2019 because it will be a fundamental part of Australia’s energy future.”

Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said the project will accelerate progress under the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap and help us achieve a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“The Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap is our plan to replace our ageing electricity infrastructure and secure NSW’s future as a clean energy superpower,” Mr Kean said.

“This approval will help to unlock transmission constraints in southern NSW and help to open up the South-West Renewable Energy Zone.

“The South-West Renewable Energy Zone will drive jobs and investment into regional NSW, and help to provide our households and businesses with some of the cheapest, cleanest electricity anywhere in the world.”

Energy Connect is being delivered by Transgrid and will be built in two stages, with the majority to be located in NSW.

Stage one will now be referred to the Federal Government for approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, before construction is expected to begin next year.

Stage two will involve the development of the 540-kilometre eastern section between Buronga and Wagga Wagga and will be subject to a separate development application. The overall project is expected to be operational by 2024.

For more information visit: https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/25821.

Record $95 million boost to legal help sector

More people facing hardship across NSW will have access to free legal support thanks to $95 million in additional Commonwealth legal assistance funding over four years.

Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said the record investment will support our hardworking legal assistance sector meet the unprecedented service demand from the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put significant pressure on vulnerable people throughout NSW and highlighted the critical need for access to free legal services,” Mr Speakman said.

“I’m very thankful for the contribution of our dedicated legal assistance providers in delivering much-needed support for disadvantaged people, when so many are doing it tough.

“I encourage providers to apply for funding to support victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence, people in need of mental health services, and other disadvantaged groups grappling with financial stress that’s often intensified by COVID-19.”

Free legal assistance services are available for socially and economically disadvantaged people facing a range of issues, including job losses, debt problems, housing insecurity, family law matters and people in need of support when they are the victim of violence.

The new funding includes:

  • $39.3 million for Legal Aid NSW, community legal centres and other service providers to assist vulnerable women, with a focus on victims of domestic and family violence;
  • $16 million to support people with mental health conditions access the justice system;
  • $12.2 million to assist workers experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination;
  • $23.5 million for Legal Aid NSW to extend Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS), including new court locations, and increased mental health supports; and
  • $2.4 million for providers to expand Domestic Violence Units (DVU) with dedicated mental health support and increased outreach to women in regional or remote areas.

This record investment in the legal assistance sector is part of the National Legal Assistance Partnership Agreement 2020-25 (NLAP).

Commonwealth Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said the funding would assist vulnerable Australians facing disadvantage to access vital legal services.

“The Morrison Government is committed to supporting legal assistance services to ensure vulnerable Australians continue to have access to justice,” Ms Cash said.

“Across Australia, we are working with states and territories through the NLAP to continually invest in these important services. We will provide more than $2.3 billion over 5 years for legal assistance services across Australia under the NLAP.”

Legal Aid NSW CEO Brendan Thomas said demand for DVU advice had more than doubled during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, and that while the unit usually fields around 1,000 calls annually, there’d been more than 6,000 calls in the 12 months to March 2021.

“Lockdowns are about staying home to be protected from COVID-19. But for the women we work with, home is not always a safe place, a fact that may have been exacerbated due to mandatory lockdowns and other necessary health restrictions,” Mr Thomas said.

“Our DVU is critical in helping victim-survivors seek protection orders, navigate the family law system, access support and safe housing, and seek financial counselling.”

For confidential advice, support and referrals, contact: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), The NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63) or Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491).

School return brought forward

Schools will begin their staggered return to face to face learning on Monday 18 October, one week earlier than initially planned, thanks to the heroic vaccination efforts of NSW.

Students will now return to face-to-face learning with NSW Health approved COVID-safe settings on the following dates:

  • From 18 October – Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12
  • From  25 October – Year 2, 6 and 11
  • From 1 November – Year 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the return to school plan was always linked to the vaccination rates of the community, and thanks to faster vaccination rates than expected, students will be able to return to the classroom sooner.

“We have been clear that a return to school should begin once the state passed 70 per cent fully vaccinated, and thanks to the incredible efforts from the people of NSW, we will reach that milestone sooner than expected,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Managing a return in a school system the size of NSW’s is not a small task. Keeping the staged approach, but moving it all one week earlier, allows schools to shift their plans forward and still provides time for staff and eligible students to get vaccinated.”

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said an additional week of quality face-to-face learning for students is worth having and can be achieved in a safe and sensible way.

“It’s fantastic that we will meet vaccination targets in NSW earlier than originally anticipated. This has allowed us to shift the plan forward for all schools across impacted areas,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Bringing the return forward allows schools to keep their plans for a staggered return, and provides time for staff to get their second dose. From 18 October, all staff that need to be on site must be fully vaccinated.

“I know there remain some concerns in the community around a return to school, but students, staff and parents should feel confident that this approach allows enough time to make schools as COVID safe as possible.”

The final date for staff to receive two doses of the COVID vaccine remains 8 November, unless staff have a medical exemption.

Families who cannot keep their children at home for any reason have always been able to send their children to school, and that continues to be the case.

Schools will begin communicating their COVID-safe plans to families from next week.

The public health advice for parents to keep their children home from early childhood education and care services where possible will also be lifted from 18 October 2021.

Areas of Regional NSW where stay at home orders have already been lifted will continue learning face-to-face from Day 1, Term 4.

Jobsaver extension to boost business recovery

The NSW Government will go it alone to fund an extension of the JobSaver program to help NSW businesses re-open their doors and get people back into jobs as the State starts to ease restrictions and enjoy greater freedoms.

When NSW reaches the 70 per cent double vaccination rate JobSaver payments will be tapered from 40 per cent to 30 per cent of weekly payroll.

When NSW reaches the 80 per cent double vaccination rate, the joint Commonwealth and NSW Government JobSaver payments will cease and the Commonwealth will end its contributions.

At that time, the NSW Government will continue to fund its 50 per cent contribution to JobSaver payments. At this point JobSaver payments will be tapered from 30 per cent to 15 per cent of weekly payroll.

JobSaver payments will end on 30 November, coinciding with the further relaxation of restrictions.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the extension of JobSaver would work alongside the NSW Government’s Roadmap and the easing of restrictions, giving businesses certainty.

“The continuation of JobSaver over the next two months will give businesses across NSW the financial boost they need to get them through the challenge of re-opening their doors,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is so close, and this support will help see businesses and workers out to the other side and prepare them for re-launch.”

By 30 November, the NSW Government is expected to have unilaterally provided over $8 billion in direct support to businesses and individuals, including through the JobSaver program and its contribution to Commonwealth Disaster Payments.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said pivoting JobSaver from support to recovery would put businesses on the front-foot as restrictions are eased and the economy is restarted.

“JobSaver has helped businesses weather the storm of the latest outbreak and now is the right time to plan for the future so we can get our economy firing again,” Mr Perrottet said.

“I know business across the State are keen to open their doors, and are busy planning now that our Roadmap is out. There’s renewed optimism in NSW.

“We are sticking by businesses and giving them the support they need to get back on the road to prosperity with the State only a few weeks away from re-opening.

The jointly funded Commonwealth and NSW Government business support package, including JobSaver, has provided a $7 billion financial lifeline to businesses over the past three months helping keep people connected to their workplaces. Over the next two months, this lifeline will increase to almost $12 billion provided to NSW businesses to make it through the Delta pandemic.

After NSW reaches the 80 per cent double vaccination target the Micro-business grant will continue to be available at a rate of $750 a fortnight, before ceasing on 30 November.

The NSW Government will announce its comprehensive Economic Recovery Plan in early October, designed to boost business confidence and jobs growth and inject stimulus as restrictions ease across the State.

Details of the JobSaver tapering are set out below:

JobSaver
(excluding extension
program)
Share of
weekly payroll
Weekly payment range
(paid fortnightly)
Weekly payments to non-employing business
(paid fortnightly)
Current 40% $1,500 to $100,000 $1,000
10 October 30% $1,125 to $75,000 $750
80 per cent double dose 15% $562.50 to $37,500 $375
30 November

Domestic Violence Woman charged after man allegedly stabbed – Cabarita

A woman has been charged after a man was allegedly stabbed in a domestic related incident at a home in Sydney’s inner west overnight.

Just after 3am (Thursday 30 September 2021), emergency services were called to a home on Kendall Street, Cabarita, after reports a man had been stabbed.

Officers attached to Burwood Police Area Command attended and found a 50-year-old man with a wound to his stomach.

He was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where he remains in a stable condition.

A 44-year-old woman was arrested and taken to Burwood Police Station where she was charged with would person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

She has been refused bail and will appear at Burwood Local Court tomorrow (Friday 1 October 2021).

The man and woman are known to each other.

Decolonising international aid

At a time of global crisis, the Greens will provide support and reparations for the Global South by boosting international aid through Official Development Assistance, providing $4.5 billion of climate finance and reparations to 2025, and cancelling bilateral debt obligations.

The Greens’ funded plan to decolonise international aid will help to right historical wrongs and support countries across the world grappling with interconnected crises.

Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Greens spokesperson for International Aid & Development, will be delivering a keynote address at the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) conference today laying out the Greens plan.

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said:

“Countries in the Global South are facing the climate crisis, a public health crisis, and an economic crisis. It’s time Australia stepped up and provided appropriate international aid to help countries combat these interconnected crises.

“As a wealthy, colonial country, Australia has a responsibility to contribute its fair share of aid, and pay reparations for its role in the climate crisis and the ongoing damage caused by Western imperialism.

“Women carry a disproportionate burden of these crises, but their voices go unheard. We must refocus our aid program to centre on the rights and self determination of women and girls, ensure clear gender equity targets and deliver aid through a feminist lens.

“This is the defining decade for climate action and Australia must commit to providing its fair share of climate finance at COP26.

“In the last decade Australia has been cutting aid, while the rest of the world has been doing the opposite. Shamefully and embarrassingly, we are near the bottom of global aid rankings. We are failing our Pacific neighbours who have water lapping at their doorstep.

“The Greens will boost international aid and provide billions of additional funding for climate finance.

“The cascading legacies of colonialism have locked communities into poverty and economic underdevelopment with mounting debts they will never be free of. By cancelling bilateral debt obligations, Australia can be a global champion for debt forgiveness and start to turn the page on the crushing levels of debt owed to wealthy countries by poorer countries.

“The Greens’ vision is to reimagine aid as not simply charity, but as a matter of global justice. Aid should never be a way to further our national ambitions or greedy trade interests.

“Aid programs should work to right historical wrongs and build communities in parts of the world that have been left destitute.”

The Greens plan will:

  • Increase Australia’s aid budget to 0.7% of GNI by 2030
  • Provide climate finance and reparations of $4.5 billion from 2022-2025, more than tripling Australia’s current commitment
  • Establish an independent development oversight agency
  • Place the human rights and self-determination of women and girls at the centre of Australian development assistance programs
  • Cancel future loan repayments from all countries in the Global South who owe debt directly to Australia
  • Advocate for financial institutions and foreign governments to cancel any outstanding debt payments from countries in the Global South

FULL POLICY INITIATIVE AVAILABLE: https://greens.org.au/campaigns/international-aid

Paying for our plan:

By making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax and winding back handouts to big polluters, we can build a better life for all of us.

1 in 3 big corporations pays no tax and many big corporations and billionaires send their profits offshore tax free.

The Greens will tax billionaires with a new ‘billionaires tax’, require big corporations making excessive profits to pay a ‘corporate super-profits tax’ and axe billions of dollars in handouts to the coal, oil and gas giants that are driving the climate crisis.

When big corporations and billionaires pay their fair share, everyone can have the services they need for a better life.