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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2061


Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -In rising to give wholehearted and enthusiastic support to this Bill on behalf of the Liberal Party I want to say that I feel we are all pleased with this good news in the field of health care for a particularly unfortunate and growing part of our population. I believe that I should read into the record the full title of the Bill because it expresses delightfully the aim of the Bill. It is a Bill for an Act to provide for financial assistance to the

States, local governing bodies and voluntary organisations in respect of the provisions of medical and other services or facilities in relation to mental illness, mental disability, alcoholism and drug dependence. The Bill provides signs of a new approach to mental health in all its aspects as covered in the long title of the Bill. It shows the people of Australia that the Commonwealth Government and departments of health are continuing to develop a helpful and understanding approach to the problems that, as I say, beset an unfortunately increasing number of the Australian population.

The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) who represents the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) in the Senate said in his second reading speech that the Bill provides:

.   . grants for the capital costs of approved additional community facilities for alcohol and drug dependent persons and the mentally disturbed or disabled. These will not be inside mental hospitals. They will include both non-residential and hostel facilities for prevention, outpatient treatment, training and rehabilitation.

He then went on to say:

Under the Bill the Minister will approve schemes and projects submitted by the States, local governing bodies and voluntary organisations. State schemes may include projects of voluntary organisations within the State.

I want to add further in congratulating the Government that the Liberal and Country Parties in another place wanted to amend the original Bill. During the second reading debate in the other place the Minister accepted the idea and an amendment was passed in Committee that pleased all sections of the House.

As would be well known by my colleagues in the Senate, throughout the year 1970 and up until 6 May 1971 I was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. It is interesting to note that of the 8 members of that Committee seven are still members of the Senate. I refer, of course, to Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield, Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Georges, Senator Maunsell, Senator McManus, Senator Wheeldon. The other member of the Committee is my own personal friend and former colleague, now Mr George Branson. We do not claim because we submitted a very complete and comprehensive report that in respect of any action that has been taken in the field covered by our report we necessarily were responsible or even ignited the thought that has culminated in some helpful action being taken in what I must say is the fight against drug dependency and alcoholism.

In respect of what I consider to be the kernel of the Bill- the points I read from the Minister's second reading speech- I wish to quote the following extract from page 68 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse:

The Committee therefore recommends that a sum of $5m should be made available immediately for distribution to the States for the provision of facilities and staff for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependence, including alcoholism. These funds should be used for the facilities to be provided by Governments and for the support of voluntary organisations. The amounts required to maintain an adequate treatment and rehabilitation program should be reviewed annually and a continuing Commonwealth contribution on a dollar for dollar basis with the States for this purpose should be assured.

This Bill provides $7.5m each year for the next 2 years. This is something that I know will give great heart to people in the States who are connected with local government and voluntary organisations. Throughout our taking of evidence in all the States we heard from people in these voluntary organisations. Their main trouble was the lack of money. Although various people and some States were helping the organisations they were all cramped in their efforts and some had to close down. The work that could be done has not been very successful. I believe that those organisations will be given new heart and new encouragement and it is hoped that all governments in the future while the need shall last will continue with this outlook towards the sicknesses that this Bill covers and will help to look after those people who are affected.

The Committee found that it was essential in the whole field of drug abuse and alcoholism that there be voluntary organisations as opposed to those run by governments or government instrumentalities. So many of the people who either were suffering or who had relatives who were suffering from the sickness of drug dependency or alcoholism for obvious reasons did not like to attend a government institution and talk with a government official. But those people would willingly go along to the voluntary organisations. These voluntary organisations all had members of the medical profession of high standing, very interested and helpful departmental officers on the outside and in some cases and probably in most cases members of the drug squads and the narcotics squads of the Department of Customs and Excise giving a helpful hand and advice in a completely voluntary style. Although it could be said that the recovery rate from drug dependency or alcoholism is not great- it is not a high percentage- I believe it can be said that recovery has occurred in a number of cases. It has definitely been proved that where the organisations, the treatment, the advice and later on, if necessary, the hospitalisation are available the recovery rate can be greatly increased. It can be shown very easily that where someone who is suffering from diseases which this Bill encompasses is motivated back into normal civilian life it is of great benefit not only to the community and the country but also to the family to which those formerly sick persons belong. Anything the Government can do in this respect is worthy of support.

I do not wish to delay the Senate any longer. A long debate took place in another place and much has been said and written about the causes and effects of drug abuse and alcoholism. All I believe in is already contained in the report that I had the privilege to sign on behalf of the Committee. The only final remark I will make is that I am pleased with the way this Bill describes how this money will be spent. If I have one complaint in Australia and in the international sphere in respect of the fight against alcoholism and drug dependency it is that too much money is being spent by too many people writing too many articles and books, most of which are complete takes out of articles which have been written previously by other experts. These people travel together to various countries, hold seminars and conventions, write more papers and come to more findings and not one person is aided in his or her fight to get rid of the cause of drug abuse or alcoholism. This Bill provides the working tools and the encouragement of the people, as the second reading speech of the Minister says, to go almost into the houses of the afflicted. These are the tools for the fight. The money is there and the encouragement is there. I congratulate everybody who has had any part in bringing the Bill to the national Parliament.







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