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Wednesday, 10 December 1986
Page: 3697


Senator COLEMAN —My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I advise him that I have received representations from the relative of a veteran who claims that the repatriation pharmaceutical benefits schedule discriminates against males, in that it provides for the prescription of spermicidal creams, intra-uterine devices and diaphragms, which are all contraceptive devices used by females, but does not approve of the prescription of condoms for males. I am sure I do not need to remind the Minister of the concern that is being expressed in the community in favour of the use of condoms due to the escalation of such diseases as acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Does the Minister agree that this omission indeed constitutes discrimination against males? If so, what steps will he take to redress the situation?


Senator GIETZELT —The question obviously raises a very interesting point. I can assure the Senate that I had no conception that there was such a serious omission from the schedule. The question, of course, of whether this omission constitutes discrimination against males is, I would have thought, rather up in the air, because this situation has existed for a long time. In fact, it could be argued that this omission rather constitutes discrimination against females, in that it suggests that the onus of contraception falls on them and that that, of course, is why contraceptive devices for females are included in the schedule.

Senator Coleman did warn me that this issue was likely to be raised at Question Time, so I checked with my Department's Assistant Secretary of pharmaceutical services. He advised me that there had been no previous request for condoms to be put on the schedule. Of course, I recall Senator Coleman's very active participation some years ago over the discrimination existing in the Parliament in respect of the use of the toilets; so, of course, I can appreciate her interest in this particular area.

I must point out, of course, that I do not know what this matter says about my Department's client group, because we have something like three-quarters of a million veterans who are overwhelmingly male and who are overwhelming aged. But I can assure Senator Coleman that I will take this request seriously and see what can be done to remedy the shortcoming.