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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2746


Senator KILGARIFF(12.55) —Madam Acting Deputy President, today I will speak on two matters, one relating to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication scheme, and the other, if time permits, relating to nursing homes, particularly as the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) is in the Senate at the moment. I take the opportunity of the first reading of the Live-stock Slaughter Amendment Bill to raise the matter of the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication scheme. Honourable senators will know how important it is that this scheme be continued and given high priority. It is most important that brucellosis and tuberculosis be completely eradicated in Australia. Failure to do so will endanger export markets in places such as the United States of America, Canada, Japan and South Korea. It has been estimated that at the moment the beef export industry is worth some $1,500m a year-one and a half billion dollars. So one can understand, with the problems that are experienced in the beef trade these days, the absolute necessity to ensure that the brucellosis eradication scheme is continued with the highest priority, the plan being to have it completely eradicated in the early part of this next decade.

The tuberculosis eradication program began in 1968 and the brucellosis eradication program began in 1970. It is a joint program between industry and the Federal, State and Territory governments. The operational costs are financed by the industry. Some 70 per cent is raised through the cattle slaughter levy and the States and the Northern Territory contribute some 30 per cent. A vast amount of compensation is paid too, of which the Commonwealth funds 75 per cent and the States and the Northern Territory 25 per cent. In the 1983-84 financial year additional assistance was introduced, with the Commonwealth and the States and the Northern Territory paying half each. I take the opportunity to seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard two tables. I have seen Senator Gareth Evans, the Attorney-General, regarding the incorporation. These two tables set out figures for the bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign, State and Commonwealth cumulative expenditure from 1970-71 to 1982-83, and the estimated annual expenditure from 1983-84 to 1986-87. The second part of Table 2 sets out the actual expenditure from 1970-71 to 1982-83 and the estimated expenditure from 1983-84 to 1986-87. I seek leave to have the two tables incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The tables read as follows-

Table 1

BOVINE BRUCELLOSIS AND TUBERCULOSIS ERADICATION CAMPAIGN

STATE AND COMMONWEALTH CUMULATIVE EXPENDITURE 1970-71 TO 1982-83

Operational expenditure

Compensation expenditure

Total expenditure

Financial year

Australia NT Australia NT Australia NT

$(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) 1970 0.9 0.1 . . . . 0.9 0.1 1970-71 4.0 0.2 0.2 . . 4.2 0.2 1971-72 8.5 0.4 0.5 . . 9.0 0.4 1972-73 13.9 0.7 0.8 . . 14.7 0.7 1973-74 22.1 1.1 1.4 0.2 23.5 1.3 1974-75 33.4 1.7 2.2 0.5 35.6 2.2 1975-76 45.2 2.2 3.7 0.8 48.9 3.0 1976-77 60.6 3.0 6.2 0.8 66.8 3.8 1977-78 83.3 4.1 11 .1 1.0 94.4 5.1 1978-79 111.8 5.2 15.2 1.2 127.0 6.4 1979-80 142.6 6.7 19.1 1. 7 161.7 8.4 1980-81 172.4 8.4 23.8 1.9 196.2 10.3 1981-82 202.3 10.9 28.7 2.3 231.0 13.2 1982-83 233.3 14.3 37.3 5.2 270.6 19.5

Table 2

BOVINE BRUCELLOSIS AND TUBERCULOSIS ERADICATION CAMPAIGN

STATE AND COMMONWEALTH ESTIMATED ANNUAL EXPENDITURE 1983-84 TO 1986-87

Operational expenditure

Compensation expenditure

Additional assistance exp.

Total expenditure

Financial year

Australia NT Australia NT Australia NT Australia NT

$(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) 1983-84 35.3 5.4 11.3 8.0 5.0 1.6 51.6 15.0 1984-85 35.9 5.5 19.1 8.2 10.1 6.9 65.1 20.6 1985-86 34.9 5.5 18.7 7.7 8. 9 6.1 62.5 19.3 1986-87 28.9 5.5 17.9 7.1 7.9 5.7 54.7 18.3

Total 135.0 21.9 67.0 31.0 31.9 20.3 233.9 73.2

BOVINE BRUCELLOSIS AND TUBERCULOSIS ERADICATION CAMPAIGNSTATE AND COMMONWEALTH ACTUAL EXPENDITURE 1970-71 TO 1982-83AND ESTIMATED EXPENDITURE 1983-84 TO 1986- 87

Operational expenditure

Compensation expenditure

Additional assistance exp.

Total expenditure

Financial year

Australia NT Australia NT Australia NT Australia NT

$(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) $(m) 1970-71 to 1982-83

233.3 14.3 37.3 5.2 . . . . 270.6 19.5 1983-84 to 1986-87

135.0 21.9 67.0 31.0 31.9 20.3 233.9 73.2

Total 368.3 36.2 104.3 36.2 31.9 20.3 504.5 92.7


Senator KILGARIFF —The tables have been prepared by the Department of Primary Industry, and they show that from 1970 to June 1983 a total of $270.6m was spent on the scheme, throughout Australia, with $19.5m of that going to the Northern Territory. By the way, these figures are Federal and Northern Territory figures. I have no doubt that a break-up of State figures would be available too. The Federal Government, as I understand it, estimates that a further $504.5m is to be allocated up to June 1987 for this eradication scheme. Some $92.7m of this will be for the program in the Northern Territory. As a result of the funds spent and the efforts made over the last 10 years or so large areas of Australia are now free, or provisionally free, of brucellosis and tuberculosis. Even so, a major effort is still required to complete the campaign. Failure to do this will bring about reinfection of herds now free of the disease-freed from the disease, as can be seen from the tables, at considerable cost.

For the campaign to be effective we must have total eradication, and I wonder whether the people who are responsible for this are really getting sufficient support to bring about eradication. When one looks across the north of Australia , from the north of Western Australia, through the Top End of the Northern Territory, to Cape York in Queensland, the problems experienced in those areas with feral animals and cattle running wild can be realised. It seems to me that we need to give even higher priority to the eradication campaign. As a representative of the Northern Territory, I think it is extremely important that an increased effort is made, even though there are large areas of difficult terrain. Those large areas of difficult terrain make de-stocking difficult, and mustering often leaves stragglers.

There is also the problem of tuberculosis-infected buffalo in the Northern Territory. It will be realised, of course, that there is no brucellosis in buffalo, but as part of the scheme tuberculosis in buffalo will have to be eradicated. In the Northern Territory the buffalo has been looked upon at times as a pest and at other times as something of economic value. Buffalo farming is growing rapidly as an industry in the Northern Territory. It provides meat, hides and live exports, and of course it has its tourist value. One need refer only to the report by Dr Goff Letts on feral animals in the Northern Territory to realise the problems that are being experienced in the north. Now I understanding that the Department of Primary Industry is conducting a further review of the future of the buffalo industry, and this is being carried out by Dr Jim Whittem.

I have been pleased to learn from the Northern Territory Primary Production Minister, Ian Tuxworth, that the Federal Government has allocated some $6m to the scheme in the Northern Territory, and $4.4m has been released. However, more funds will be needed to speed up the program. At the moment some $1.6m is being withheld until an audit has been carried out of compensation expenditure on particular pastoral areas in the Northern Territory. Some questions have been asked about that, but I believe that when the inquiry is completed we will find that there has been nothing illegal but certainly over-expenditure. As I have indicated, I believe that more funds are needed to speed up the program to ensure that all herds are tested and the diseases eradicated.

I notice that the Northern Territory representative in the House of Representatives has said that the Northern Territory Government has defrauded the brucellosis and tuberculosis scheme of $2m. That is the amount I have just mentioned, and I believe that that sort of statement is harmful for the industry and will be proved in the long run to be a lot of nonsense. There has obviously been over-expenditure, but I would not think there is any case for claiming that the scheme has been defrauded. Mr Tuxworth told the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly yesterday that the problems have been resolved with the Minister for Primary Industry John Kerin and, as I have indicated, funds are now flowing and the audit is being finalised.

In closing my remarks on this matter, I urge the authorities to take more action in the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis. There are so many things happening in, say, the northern part of South Australia, where shoot-outs are actually taking place. It seems incredible that we have to have these massive shoot-outs, where it has been necessary to shoot thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of cattle, without any economic value being obtained from them. At the same time, as I understand it, the station owners are getting no compensation. To me it is a strange situation. Surely these cattle could be used for something, and if they have to be shot out surely the station owners can get some compensation. As it is now, I expect that a lot of people in the industry will go broke through this type of operation.

I shall speak very briefly about leave for nursing home residents. I should also like to take this opportunity to speak briefly about a matter first raised by the Northern Territory Health Minister, Nick Dondas, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister. I support him in what he is endeavouring to achieve, and I ask Senator Grimes to take the matter in hand and look at it sympathetically. It involves the time for which residents of nursing homes are allowed to leave their beds, say, to visit relatives, without having to pay to keep the bed. This is a problem that worries a number of invalid people in the Northern Territory.

The current situation is that private nursing homes such as the Chan Park Nursing Home in Darwin are obliged to maintain a 100 per cent bed occupancy if they are to operate viably. The Commonwealth nursing home benefit pays about 50 per cent of the cost but it is paid only for the beds occupied. Currently, if residents spend more than one night a month away from the nursing home the Commonwealth benefit is cut off. This means that the nursing home is forced to ask residents to pay an amount equivalent to the Commonwealth benefit in order to keep their beds if they are going to spend more than one night a month out of the nursing home. This is becoming very expensive for some residents, despite the fact that the Northern Territory Government has introduced a scheme to assist the residents in covering these costs. Particularly hard hit are Aboriginal people-and other people too, for what it may be worth-who find that they are prevented from visiting their communities and homelands because they do not have the money to meet the cost of keeping their beds. Other problems have also been encountered with severely disabled children whose families would like to take them home for weekends but are prevented from doing this because of the cost.

The Hon. Nick Dondas has asked the Federal Government to review the situation and to allow the residents to spend more time with their families without having either to give up their nursing home beds or pay to keep them. I have given him my full support on this matter and would ask the Minister to undertake to carry out such a review and look favourably at giving some further assistance to these people confined to nursing homes. I will give one example of a young Aboriginal girl who was found paralysed out in the bush. She is completely paralysed and is some 11 or 12 years old. She is now in a nursing home. Of course, it is most beneficial for her to be able to get back to her homeland on the Daly River, amongst her people, but the cost defeats them. Despite the fact that friends of the Aboriginal people pick her up and are able to take her in specially arranged transport back to her homeland, the cost of this extra time when she is not in the nursing home is so huge that it precludes her people from having her at home . I think it is a matter of compassion, and I certainly believe that Senator Grimes will treat the matter with compassion. Some of these cases are very difficult. I merely draw it to his attention hoping that, in his compassion, he can do something to assist these people.