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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 764

Senator HERRON (3.20 p.m.) —I follow on from Senator Lees: there has been a giant con trick in relation to this budget. The Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) mentioned breast cancer. I have with me the media release by the Minister for Human Services and Health (Dr Lawrence) headed, `Major budget initiatives in breast cancer.' Looking at those figures, there is $236 million over five years for a continuation of the already established breast cancer screening program. The increase is to cover the women already recruited to the program who need to be re-screened two years later.

  So there obviously has to be an increase in funds, otherwise the scheme would fall flat on its face. There would be no point in having a breast cancer screening program if the screenings were not repeated. So there obviously has to be an increase of $14 million a year to cover that. And the government comes out with this enormous hoax on the women of Australia by saying that there are major budget initiatives in breast cancer!

  The only new change is $1 million a year for a breast cancer foundation and $2.5 million for a breast cancer clinic to collect statistics and disseminate information. A major initiative—$3.5 million! Yet the government has conned everybody. It has even conned Tillinghast, which is recognised as a major player in this field. In its latest bulletin, Tillinghast states:

The big boost to breast cancer servicing has signalled the Commonwealth is targeting its discretional health dollars to worthy causes that have high electoral appeal.

  The government has done nothing of the sort. Tillinghast has been conned in this giant hoax like the rest of the media. There has been no real increase at all. There has been $3.5 million allocated in the next year, but the $236 million is a continuation of the previous breast cancer screening program where $64 million was spent over three years. The government did not spend the total amount. If we look at the figures, the $3.5 million comes from the unspent money of the previously allocated funds.

  I would like the minister to tell me where are these major budget initiatives in relation to breast cancer. They do not exist. They are a continuation of the previous program that was already funded. There are no new major initiatives. To paraphrase the minister's own words they have used economic tricks to juggle the numbers to serve their own political purposes. That is what the minister said in relation to some comment about her remarks. This minister this afternoon referred to them as jiggered figures. By golly, they are jiggered figures all right. In the minister's own words she has jiggered them around.

  The other big hoax on Australian women is that when the breast cancer screening program is in a steady state only 22 per cent of women who are capable of being screened will be screened. That is despite the expenditure—

Senator Crowley —That is not true.

Senator HERRON —That is absolutely true. I will transfer the figures from her own department to the minister so that she can read them. It is 22 per cent, minister. The minister can look at them and see the accurate figures. I would ask the minister to reply to them.

  There is no screening program in the Northern Territory; it has not been established yet. There is not a woman in the Northern Territory who has been in the screening program because it has not been established. I would like the minister to reply to that and tell us where are these major new initiatives. Why are the women of the Northern Territory not being screened? Why are, at the maximum, only 22 per cent of Australian women being screened? The minister tells us that there are major new initiatives in this budget.