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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1584


Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I join with fellow senators in expressing satisfaction with the presentation of this report. In doing so, I equally join with them in paying tribute to the former chairman of the Committee, Dame Ivy Wedgwood, for the dedication that she exhibited right through the hearings by the Senate Select Committee on Health and Welfare. I think she was fortified by a lengthy career attached to various groups that were aimed at improving the sectors of the community that have suffered these terrific hardships. I think that this experience stood her well. I was only a fill-in on the Committee for 6 months pending the return to active politics of my Victorian colleague, Senator Brown. On the New South Wales scene - my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland made reference to this - Senator Fitzgerald in some of his early Senate activities several years ago energised a number of groups to marshal their facts and therefore present valuable witnesses at the Committee's hearings. 1 think that there is one theme which has repeated itself. It could probably be drawn from the remarks of the previous speaker Senator Davidson. He referred to the fact that the report contains 85 recommendations. I fee] that one of the problems in Australia in respect to social services - this applies also in the United States of America and Canada - is that, under a federal system, whatever policy is implemented, the orders have to go down through a chain of command. Sometimes, along the way some of the enthusiasm is blunted. I say that advisedly. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, the Minister for Health, is to follow me in this debate. He will notice several recommendations in which the Committee refers to a meeting of the responsible State Ministers. I believe it is unfortunate that at times, not necessarily in the field of health - honourable senators know that I have been hammering for uniform firearms control - we find that some States are more aware of their responsibilities than others. For that reason, I believe that when we look at these recommendations it must be remembered that there has to be constant galvanisation of some States to their responsibilities.

Of course, this is not new to Australia. I said that it applies in North America as well. I contrast it with the situation applying in some sections of Asia where there have been the tragedies of war or, for that matter, the situation in post-war Europe. I can recall going into devastated areas of Eastern Europe in the mid-1950s. I do not think Senator Jessop will mind me making this point: With all governments, even those with left wing ideologies, it is a question of priorities. I am not canvassing ideological views. The results of war with massive civilian injuries speeded up forms of rehabilitation. 1 am saying that in a reasonably affluent country such as Australia, which at times exhibits this friendly society complex of people in voluntary organisations, we are inclined not to give the solution of these problems the attention it ought to have. Perhaps I can put it another way. As medical science has improved, some pregnancies which previously might hve been aborted have resulted in children who needed special care being brought into the world. This has added to our social service structure. That is the broad picture with which we are confronted. 1 repeat that in our federal system it is obvious that we have to be constantly following up these directives. Far too often a Commonwealth Minister makes a Press statement and it will look good; but by the time the implementation gets down to the municipal level, a lot of the drive seems to have been lost.

Senator Davidsonalso referred to the cost factor. The amazing point in this regard is the attitudes and suspicions of some of the States. The Committee refers to the utilisation of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. I do not think it would be possible to estimate the cost of such utilisations. The facilities have always been there, but some States are not always inclined to accept the assistance of Federal bodies. The Spastic Centre in Sydney and its counterparts in the other capital cities were the trail blazers. As my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, where previously there has often been a lack of social workers, today there is a proliferation of graduates with Arts degrees. With a little organisation and a little manipulation we could increase the number of social workers for whom we are crying out, by diverting some of the arts facilities in this direction.

In a debate such as this I think we should pay tribute to the valuable work which is done by people in Commonwealth establishments such as Mount Wilga. They do a wonderful job. I say that with some feeling. When we thank these people lor their dedication we should remember that they have to live the same as everybody else has to live. I know that last year some of them waited 9 pay days before a Public Service determination was implemented. 1 know what would have been said in this chamber if those people had mentioned taking industrial action. We talk about a happy ship, but these things have to be looked at and the dedication of such staff taken for granted.

I deal now with the matter of workers compensation. Australia is a large continent. A man injured in an industrial accident in a country area - for example, by a fall of rock in a country quarry - -does not always have the same opportunity to be rehabilitated as has a man who is injured in an accident in a factory at Footscray or Redfern. This is one of the problems thu! has to be faced. We do not always consider the individual. He could be a man of 30. with a wife and a couple of children. II he is sent to a rehabilitation centre in a capital city, secondary problems arise. I know that the report refers to the inquiry conducted by Judge Conybeare. It is history that Judge Conybeare, in his farewell speech in Sydney, was rather caustic of all the elements that make up the compensation arena. It was brought out vividly by most witnesses, medical and otherwise, that until the applicant is assured of some financial security he is not over-receptive to physical rehabilitation. This is a very difficult problem. As a consequence, if a person is injured in industry, often the employer after a period of time, with the connivance of the union, will make his work a little easier. The problems usually arise in the first 6 months after the casualty. An apprentice in an engineering industry, someone in a construction industry or a migrant present problems which require the help of social workers. I return to this theme: I believe that more interpreters should be used as social workers, particularly when migrants are involved. ft is a vast field with which we have been doling. I believe that overall it is a challenge to our Federal system. I know that in this chamber I make frequent comparisons between our position and the position in the Scandinavian countries which I regard as the most progressive countries in the world in this field. It is true that they have a centralised form of government and that we have to rely on co-operation with the States. I am often a little impatient with the States. I believe that the report contains some very effective recommendations. I refer to recommendations 83, 84 and 85. Tribute has been paid to many of the witnesses. I sincerely hope that recommendations 83 to 85 are implemented. If the Minister for Health looks through the list of people who testified - he will have to make the appointments - I think he will find a nucleus of people who could give excellent service in advising the Government on the subsequent implementation of the majority of the recommendations.







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