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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Service) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of the bill is to amend the Tuberculosis Act 1945 by substituting a :new section for the existing section 0, which provides for the payment of special allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants. The Tuberculosis Act was passed by the present Government in October, 1945, to give effect to its plan to strengthen the attack on tuberculosis by means of improved diagnostic and after-care facilities, treatment in suitable hospitals and the payment of special allowances to sufferers and their dependants. With a view to encouraging the States to establish additional diagnostic facilities, provision was made under section 4 for the Commonwealth to subsidize, on a pound for pound basis, the expenditure of the States in the maintenance of diagnostic facilities such as clinics, dispensaries, and X-ray equipment, established after the commence-: ment of the act. For this purpose the Commonwealth has provided the sum of £50,000 per annum for distribution amongst the States, as determined by the Minister. Under the same section a further sum of £50,000 -per annum has been provided for payment to the States, also on a pound for pound basis, for the maintenance of after-care facilities, on the same basis as for diagnostic facilities. Provision has been made in section 5 under which the Commonwealth will pay to the States a subsidy of six shillings for each daily occupied bed in approved tuberculosis hospitals established after the commencement of the act. This payment is subject to the condition that no charge is made for accommodation or treatment in the public wards of the hospitals. Section 6 of the act as it now stands . provides for the payment of special allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis and to dependants of sufferers, provided such payments will assist in preventing the spread of tuberculosis or promote the better treatment of the disease. For this purpose the Government set aside the sum of £250,000 per annum. In attempting to give effect to the objects of the section, however, policy and administrative difficulties have arisen, because there, is no power, such as is provided in sections 4 and 5, to make grants to the States" for this purpose.

It is now proposed to' amend the act by repealing section 6 and substituting a new section whereby the Commonwealth' will make available to tie States the sum of £250,000 per annum, to be distributed as determined by the Minister. This will bring section 6 into line with sections 4 and 5 of the act. The money will be payable to the States upon the condition that it shall be applied by the States during the year in which it is received, in making payments to, or in respect of, sufferers from tuberculosis, or the dependants of such sufferers, with the objects of - (a) encouraging such sufferers to refrain from working and to take treatment; (o) minimizing the spread of tuberculosis ; and .(c) promoting the better treatment of tuberculosis.

The States, owing to their constitutional powers, have a large share of responsibility towards tuberculosis sufferers, and this Commonwealth grant should make a valuable contribution towards the problem, particularly when it is supplemented by existing State agencies. The States will be entirely responsible for the distribution of this money and will select the people to whom payment should be made.

Proposed new section 6 contains a special provision- to the effect that payments made to tubercular sufferers and their dependants by the States, whether from moneys provided by the Commonwealth under the section or from their own moneys, will not be treated as income in tie hands ' of the recipients for the purpose of applying the means test under tie Invalid and Old-age Pensions, Widows Pensions and Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Acts. This provision will ensure that these moneys will be applied fully to the worthy objects set out in the new section, without in any way affecting pensions and benefits payable under the acts to which I have referred.

A.   minor amendment has been made to section 7 of the act by the addition of the words " by the Commonwealth or the Treasurer " after the word " payments ". This has the effect of clarifying the section. The worthy objects of this bill, representing as they do a valuable con- 'tribution to the problem of tuberculosis, will, I feel sure, commend themselves to ' honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Sir Frederick

Stewart) adjourned.

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