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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 766


Senator NEWMAN (3.28 p.m.) —Mr Deputy President, I wish to speak on the same matter. I rose to speak about another aspect of the answer given by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley). However, before I do so, I will briefly mention the Aboriginal health issue quite properly raised by Senator Lees today. In my view it does not much matter in total picture terms whether we accept the government's figure of $40.1 million or whether we accept the AMA's figure of $17 million. We know that it is nothing like the amount of money which has been portrayed by this government to the Aboriginal people and to the wider community as the amount of new money to be spent on Aboriginal health.

  I totally endorse the comments made by Senator Lees about the enormity of the need for primary health care delivery and the lack of focus on Aboriginal health to a great degree in the past. Therefore, there should not be a fight about this; there should be concern and effort to put more resources into an important area of Australia's health.

  I want to move briefly to this question of breast cancer. I was appalled at the snide comment made by the minister regarding the opposition's attempt to encourage people to support breast cancer funding both by way of private donation and from the federal government. I think it is absolutely disgraceful for the minister to denigrate our attempts to take a bipartisan approach to this matter, which has been our intent all along, especially when we see the government's media machine working overtime trying to portray the wife of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) as having led the debate in this country.

  The minister should not be talking about politics. Her government has played politics with the breast cancer issue. The government was late coming into the mammography issue about five years ago. We led the way on that; the government followed. We have been pursuing the government all along for its dilatory approach to getting mammography screening going. Carolyn Hewson, and Dr Hewson himself when he was shadow finance minister, supported strongly our policy of getting mammography screening going. I and many of my colleagues have been working on this issue for many years. We welcome Mrs Keating's involvement. However, we do not accept the snide comments that come from the minister or the propaganda that comes from the Prime Minister on this issue.

  In the time left to me I want to talk about health research. There is a misunderstanding outside, just as there is with Aboriginal health funding, that somehow this government has done something wonderful about health research and also about breast cancer research. The breast cancer research funding in this budget—the actual amount of money that will go to breast cancer research in terms of new funding—is $1 million, and it will be by way of a dollar for dollar matching of private donations, capped to a limit of $1 million. So the government will put in $1 million if the public puts in $1 million.

  What a pity it is that the government will then spend another $1 million on overhead costs for a new foundation to receive these private donations, headed by the Prime Minister's wife, and portray that as somehow putting money into breast cancer research. That is $1 million which could have been spent on attracting more public donations. Just think: if $2 million had been given by the government to encourage tax deductible private donations, something like $5 million might have been going into breast cancer research from the public with the support of the government. That, to me, is making best use of government funds.

  Going to the wider issue of health funding generally, we have a situation where the equipment is running down in our laboratories, our brightest people are not pursuing research options in the future—they are going out of that area—and programs that are under way already are only partially funded. We have a desperate need to do better. This government, despite its protestations, has not moved beyond one per cent of the health budget for funding on health research in this budget or in the expenditure for the coming calendar year. So the promise at the last election of moving to two per cent by the end of this decade will not be met unless we have a massive increase.

  Senator Richardson was going around saying that this budget would contain the largest single increase in funding for medical research since federation. He said that on 23 February. He said that the increase would go very close to achieving a doubling of medical research funding in the next four to five years. He said that on 12 February. He was an agent of the government. He was a minister in the government. His word must be honoured by this government. (Time expired)