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Thursday, 29 March 1979
Page: 1284

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Health by stating that last week the Parliament made it quite clear that it believed that the cost of abortions which fall within the law of a particular State should be covered by this Government's health scheme. I now ask whether the

Minister has directed his attention to an excellent article written by Jacqueline Rees headed 'Why One Baby in Five is Aborted' which appeared in this week's Bulletin. If he has not, will he do so? In any event, will he pay attention to the point made by the writer, namely, that if the cost of abortions is to be met by the Commonwealth Government then it has a bounden duty to spend its money in preventing the necessity of abortions by giving more money to family planning associations so that proper contraceptive means can be employed, rather than the more costly exercise of dealing with unwanted abortions?

Mr HUNT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Health) -I think the House should be indebted to the honourable member for Hindmarsh for this question this week which is the week after the debate has taken place on the issue of the Government paying benefits for procedures resulting in the termination of pregnancies that are carried out in accordance with the laws of the States. It should be understood outside this Parliament- indeed, I think most people would agree- that the tenor of the debate last week and the vote itself should not be construed by the public at large as suggesting that this Parliament condones or approves of abortion on demand. I firmly believe that a greater responsibility is now imposed not just upon the Commonwealth Government, but upon State governments which have a responsibility for administering the laws relating to abortion, to spend more money and to ensure that there is a comprehensive and satisfactory family planning program in this country.

We have a family planning program. I think it is doing a tremendous amount of good already, although there is some suggestion that insufficient funds have been made available. The objective of the program is to promote responsible parenthood, to assist couples who wish to regulate the spacing of their children, to achieve wanted births and to avoid unwanted births. The family planning program provides finance for the educational and training aspects of family planning.

In this financial year $750,000 has been allocated to the States for the family planning associations within the States, including the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission for educational programs. This allocation is not just to educate patients who are to receive the benefits of the education but also to educate doctors and other people who have a very important responsibility in this area. Until the family planning program got off the ground there was an incredible deficiency of knowledge in the medical profession. In fact, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners generally supported the family planning associations in their educational programs for its practitioners. There has been a wide acceptance that the program has already made a tremendous contribution towards proper family planning in this country.

My appeal is to the State governments to join with the Commonwealth Government. I understand that the South Australian Government is already making funds available, but all the State governments should join with the Commonwealth Government in expanding the family planning program to avoid the problem of unwanted births and to assist those childless couples in our community who want to have families.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Are you prepared to increase your allocation?

Mr HUNT - It is a matter for budgetry consideration. I would be very foolish at this time to give a guarantee. But there is a very keen awareness within the Government of the need for this program.

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