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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2728
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Senator Gareth Evans —On 20 October 1986 (Hansard, page 1548), Senator Lewis asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following question without notice:

Can he tell us the reason why Indonesia has notified that it will not send students to the Joint Services Staff College next year and also that it will not send personnel to the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay, the Australian Staff College at Fairbairn? Does the Government have any policy-if so, what policy-to heal what is now a clear breach in our relationship with Indonesia?

The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

Indonesia has advised that it does not wish to take up offers of places on courses at the Joint Services Staff College, the Royal Australian Air Force Staff College and the Army Command and Staff College in 1987. No reasons have been indicated for these particular decisions.

This should not be interpreted as a `clear breach' in our relationship with Indonesia. Countries from time to time and for various reasons decline positions on Australian training courses. It is also relevant that our officers continue to be welcome at Indonesian staff colleges.

The Australian Government desires to maintain a sound and constructive defence relationship with Indonesia. This derives from our shared strategic interests in the security of our region. Australia and Indonesia have undertaken a range of defence activities over many years and the Government continues to be willing to support activities such as training in Australia where these are sought by Indonesia.

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Senator Grimes —On 23 October 1986 (Hansard, page 1813), Senator Townley asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice concerning changes to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was changed because of the Government's desire to provide specific assistance to those deemed to be most disadvantaged, the chronically ill high drug user or the family with one or more chronically ill members. Under the arrangements existing before 1 November 1986, there was no ceiling to the amount which these people could be required to pay for their essential medication.

The new scheme places a ceiling on payments by the high user whilst at the same time ensuring that the occasional user is not seriously burdened. It is pointed out that pensioners continue to receive benefits free of charge whilst concessional beneficiaries (an especially disadvantaged group which includes the unemployed, pensioners without fringe benefits and low income earners) pay only $2.50 with entitlement to free benefits after the first 25 prescriptions. The average general beneficiary uses only four pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions annually while the average family uses only eleven prescriptions annually. The average family therefore can expect to pay approximately $80.00 a year under the new arrangements compared with $55.00 previously. The individual or family with a high and recurring demand for drugs will be considerably better off under the new arrangements. For example, a family with two asthmatic children requiring five prescriptions monthly for each child would have outlayed $600.00 a year previously. After 1 November 1986 the same family would pay approximately $183.00 to reach the 25 prescription threshold and nothing for the remainder of the year, a potential saving of over $400.00. The example quoted is quite typical of the disadvantaged family group who will be protected under the new scheme.

It is confirmed that under the new provisions of the National Health Act children 16 years or over who are not full time students are not regarded as part of the family. Where a child turns 16 during the entitlement period any prescriptions obtained for that child during the remainder of the year count towards the family's 25 prescription threshold. Where the family has been issued with an entitlement card before the child turned 16, prescriptions obtained for the child in the balance of the year may be obtained without charge under the cover of the entitlement card.

In excluding children 16 or over who are not full time students, the safety net scheme is consistent with the provisions of both Medicare and Family Allowance. It should be noted that a 16 year old who is neither employed nor studying full time may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits and, if so, would qualify in his or her own right to be issued with a Pharmaceutical Benefits Concession Card.

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