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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 765

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (3.23 p.m.) —In relation to the points raised by Senator Lees, I have been provided with the following figures and I think they actually extend the answer I was giving today. Pre-budget funding for the national Aboriginal health strategy only included $71 million for 1994-95 and zero for the years 1995-96 on. Any additional funding allocated to the national Aboriginal health strategy by definition has to be new spending. The total additional funding approved during the budget process is as follows—and I think there is a confusion here: the national Aboriginal health strategy is actually now under two streams of funding; the Aboriginal medical service and the housing infrastructure commitment. The figures for 1994-95 under the AMS are $25.1 million, for 1995-96 $37 million; 1996-97 $38 million; 1997-98 $39 million; 1998-99 $22 million. The H and I figures include $15 million in 1994-95, $77 million in 1995-96, $79 million in 1996-97, $81 million in 1997-98 and $84 million in 1998-99. So the total is $40.1 million in 1994-95, and then $114 million, $117 million, $121 million and $106 million, making a total of $499.4 million.

  Under the Aboriginal medical service there is $161.9 million and under H and I there is $337.5 million. We could debate forever whether an allocation that ceases in 1994-95 is therefore new money in the years beyond that. By any budgeting accounting, yes, it is. It is not a sleight of hand; it is a continuation of money and it is also increased money. If there is anything further I can find for Senator Lees on this matter, I will.

Senator Lees —It is maintaining services at the existing rate.

Senator CROWLEY —I can tell Senator Lees the figures I mentioned regarding new money are absolutely clear and beyond dispute.

Senator Lees —It is the definition of new money, and that is all it is.

Senator CROWLEY —It is indeed a definition of new money.

Senator Gareth Evans —Anything that is not in forward estimates.

Senator CROWLEY —Exactly, Senator Evans. Those of us who have fought for forward estimates dollars and dollars that are not in forward estimates know exactly what it means by `new money'. It is a very large allocation. It may look one way to Senator Lees, but it is certainly not the way proper accounting processes are pursued by the Department of Finance and cabinet; it is not the way they look at these things. If I can find anything further or offer Senator Lees some further briefing on this matter, I will.

  I will now answer Senator Herron's question regarding breast cancer. I will tell Senator Herron why some of the money is not spent on breast cancer screening. Our state and territory colleagues who are to match the dollars—although the Commonwealth government put in an initial amount to help get it set up—have been dragging the chain. The worst chain dragger by far is the state of Victoria, and New South Wales is rapidly following that state.

  An election is coming up in New South Wales, so suddenly Minister Phillips wants to claim all those unspent Commonwealth dollars and to say, `I am going to do great things.' There is a pea and thimble trick that one might want to get stuck into, but I am not sure whether Senator Herron will get stuck into his Liberal colleague Mr Phillips.

  One of the reasons the Northern Territory is behind is that it is coming up with a very innovative program. It is not putting out into the field a mobile breast cancer screening unit but is adding to it general health services, and also cervical cancer screening. These services will be of benefit not only to the white rural community, but also to the Aboriginal rural community. The Northern Territory has negotiated with the Commonwealth to go through that process, so I think it is very important that we do not confuse the intentions of state and territory governments in joining the Commonwealth initiative.

  I also think it is important not to accuse the Commonwealth of falling behind in a screening program when it is no fault of its own. The intention has always been that 1.7 million women in the targeted age of 50 to 69 will be screened every two years. That number of 860,000 or thereabouts will be reached by 1996.

Senator Herron —That is right.

Senator CROWLEY —I am glad that Senator Herron concurs with that. Those have been the target figures, and I think they are very reasonable. No-one has ever said that that is an insufficient number. As to further information on this matter, I advise Senator Herron that I will try to get back to him.(Time expired)