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Notice given 17 January 2007

2964  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing—

(1) With reference to data contained in the October 2006 report, Fair Dental Care for Low Income Earners, by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), does the Government agree that:

(a) Australians most likely to be in pain and unable to access dental treatment are single parents, people on low incomes, people living in nursing homes, older people, people living in rural and remote areas and Indigenous people;

(b) people with poor dental health have difficulty eating and speaking and often suffer avoidable health problems such as tooth loss or gum disease;

(c) approximately 500 000 people are on waiting lists around Australia for general dental care from public dental services with an average waiting time of 27 months;

(d) 40 per cent of Australians cannot access dental care when they need it;

(e) there will be a national shortage of around 1 500 dental staff by 2010;

(f) consumers contributed nearly $3.4 billion or 67 per cent of funding for dental services in the 2004-05 financial year, compared with only $953 million from the Government (19 per cent) and $701 million from private health insurance funds (14 per cent);

(g) since 1999, there has been a 45 per cent increase in the price of basic dental services;

(h) 21 per cent of adults who are not eligible for public dental care avoided or delayed treatment because of the cost of basic dental care; and

(i) in 2002, over a quarter of Australian adults experienced painful aching because of problems with their teeth, mouth or dentures and reported behaviour such as avoiding certain foods to cope.

 

 (2) Does the Government consider this situation satisfactory in health policy terms; if not, what efforts are being made at the federal and state government level to overcome these problems.

(3) Has the Government: (a) considered the October 2006 proposal by ACOSS and the Australian Dental Association for the Commonwealth to provide people on concession cards with free basic costs of dental care every 2 years at an estimated cost of $160 million in the first year, rising to $800 million in the fifth year; and (b) had discussions with the states with regard to this proposal whereby Commonwealth funding could be contingent on the states making satisfactory progress on building services and meeting minimum standards in children’s dental services, preventive checks and emergency dental services; if not, why not.

2966  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs—

(1) Is it the case that: (a) not all Australian ex-servicewomen who enlisted during World War II are entitled to a gold card but that Australian ex-servicemen are so entitled; if so, when will this anomalous and discriminatory situation be rectified; and (b) Australian ex-servicewomen have been afforded less recognition for their wartime contribution than their male counterparts; if so, when will this imbalance be rectified.

(2) Does the Government agree that Australian servicewomen generally receive less pay per day than their male counterparts, despite being subjected to the same rules and regulations.