Australia

'Cancer sucks': New Labor MP urges regular health checks after shock diagnosis

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New Labor MP Peta Murphy was diagnosed with breast cancer a week after being sworn in.

New Labor MP Peta Murphy has used her maiden speech in Parliament to urge men and women to get regular health checks after she was diagnosed with breast cancer a week after she was sworn in. 

Ms Murphy became the first woman to be elected to the Melbourne seat of Dunkley, covering Frankston, beating incumbent Liberal MP Chris Crewther at the 18 May election. 

The Member for Dunkley Peta Murphy delivers her maiden speech in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
New Dunkley MP Peta Murphy delivers her maiden speech, telling ladies to check their breasts.
AAP

Two weeks ago, the 45-year-old received the "unexpected news" that breast cancer had returned five years after the first time she was diagnosed. 

"You might say Murphy's law strikes again," she told Parliament. 

The former criminal lawyer and barrister has vowed to continue to represent her electorate as she fights the cancer for the second time.

"Let's be frank, cancer sucks. It changes the way your body feels and it changes the way you feel about your body," she said.

"The treatments can make you sick. Sometimes you're scared, sometimes you're angry. In my experience you're often both at the same time." 

She urged men and women to be vigilant about their health. 

"Ladies, check your breasts. Men, stop ignoring what your bodies are telling you."

"Cancer is not just indiscriminate, it is sneaky."

Zali Steggall calls for more respect

Ms Murphy is one of 27 new faces in Parliament delivering their first speeches this week. 

Earlier, Independent MP Zali Steggall received cheers from her supporters at the mention of her defeat of former prime minister Tony Abbott in the Sydney seat of Warringah. 

The Member for Warringah Zali Steggall thanks supporters after delivering her maiden speech in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Warringah MP Zali Steggall blows a kiss to supporters in the gallery.
AAP

The MP called for more accountability and a more respectful approach in Parliament, saying trust in Australian politicians was at its lowest in a decade.

"I was struck by how many grand statements and ideals are first made, but then seem to disappear in the polarisation of party partisanship. It is time for more than just words," she said.

"Government has a duty to serve and to lead. It is time for fact based policy and sensible politics."

Climate change was the central plank of her campaign to defeat Mr Abbott and she used her speech to have a crack at the Morrison government’s inaction.

“The cost of inaction is so great it is unthinkable that a Coalition government, driven with ideals of reducing national debt, would consider burdening future generations with the greatest debt ever.”

Her husband Tim Irving was among a bus-load of supporters who travelled to Canberra to watch Ms Steggall's maiden speech. 

"I think this is where she needs to be, it feels very natural to be very honest with you. She’s calm. She’s excited and very purposeful," he told SBS News. 

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