Aortic valve replacement

Media release


20 July 2011

There was some public discussion in the lead-up to the 2007 election about the fact that back in January 1993 I had aortic valve replacement surgery. This resulted from having had rheumatic fever as a little kid. Usually these valves last between 15-20 years.

Following regular check-ups over the years, and further discussions with my cardiologists in recent days, I have been advised that the time has come for the valve to be replaced again.

While there is no particular urgency to this procedure, the advice is that I should get it done sooner rather than later. Arrangements are now being made for the surgery on, or around Monday 1 August.

The doctors tell me the recovery time is around 8 weeks, most of it at home, then back to my normal work commitments. This is about the same as what happened last time when I was Director General of the Cabinet Office in the Queensland Government.

Surgery back then didn't get in the way of me being able to make a contribution to public life. And the doctors tell me the same applies for this surgery as well.

Therefore my decision to contest the next election should I once again be supported by my local branch members, remains absolutely unchanged.

And if re-elected by the good people who live on Brisbane's Southside, I intend to continue to make a contribution to our country's future as a member of the government.

This morning I notified the Prime Minister of my upcoming surgery and the Trade Minister, who acts for me when I am away. The Chief Government Whip has also been notified regarding House arrangements given I will probably miss two sitting weeks of Parliament.

In the meantime, I leave for Indonesia tonight for the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers' Meetings; and then to the Kenya/ Somalia border areas in response to an invitation from the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, to underline the absolute importance of a coordinated global response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

I will then return to Australia next week for a long-standing commitment to a public lecture in Adelaide hosted by the British High Commission.

Should journalists have any specific medical questions concerning the valve replacement operation itself, my press office can put them in contact with my consulting cardiologist, Professor David Celermajer, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate to all Australians the importance of the DonateLife campaign ( for organ and tissue donation. I have been the beneficiary of the generosity of others in the past.

Although I'm advised doctors will not be using another human valve on this occasion, there are many who remain in desperate need of the gift of the organs of much loved family members in order to live.

I once again urge all Australians to sign on to be an organ donor.

It is also important to remember that while rheumatic fever has now been virtually eliminated in Australia, this is not the case for Aboriginal communities.

Therefore we must as a nation re-double our efforts to make sure that Aboriginal children are also free from this disease in the future.

Finally, Thérèse and I would like to thank the medical and nursing staff who will, as always, offer their professionalism and care for my surgery and recovery.

The reason for issuing this statement is simply to be upfront about the type of surgery I'm having and why, given that this type of thing can have a habit of leaking out anyway.

Thérèse, Jessica, Nicholas, Marcus and I would like to ask that our privacy be respected for the period ahead.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555