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Thursday, 13 March 2008
Page: 1752

Dr NELSON (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his decision, on the one hand, to spend $2½ million on the unions’ Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine but, on the other, to refuse $800,000 to the Bonnie Babes counselling service for women who have suffered a miscarriage or had a stillborn baby. I ask the Prime Minister: does he really understand the impact that this decision will have on the 12,000 grieving women who use this counselling service every year, and does he really care?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —In response to the honourable member’s question: we on this side of the House understand the real challenge of grief counselling for those who have, tragically, lost a baby. In the period 2003-05, there were 6,281 perinatal deaths. In 2005 alone, there were 2,213 perinatal deaths. The government currently provides Lifeline with $38.5 million, over the 2004-11 period, for national telephone counselling services which offer counselling for people in distress. The government is also providing $48,000 to the Australia and New Zealand Stillbirth Alliance in the 2007-08 period for raising awareness and resource development for this sector.

We are also currently undertaking a broader review of maternity services to ensure national coordination of antenatal and perinatal services. Funding for grief counselling would be considered within this context. I note also that, prior to the election, the then government was approached for funding support by Bonnie Babes but also by a number of different organisations, including the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support organisation, or SANDS. Support for these other organisations was not provided by the previous government. When this review of antenatal and perinatal services is conducted and concluded, proper funding for a range of counselling services across the spectrum, including all non-government organisations, will be properly considered and determined.

Dr Nelson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. This bureaucratic response does not go to the question about $2½ million for a union tree but not $800,000 for women who have lost their babies.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr Craig Thomson interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Dobell should be careful about bad habits.